All out for USS

It's not too late! Universities UK can still commit to meaningful negotiations over pensions and end the strike action.

Eleni Michalopoulou (University of Liverpool)

Election address

Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Liverpool
Former Vice-President of the Liverpool University Branch Committee
Delegate to North West Regional Committee
Member UCU Left

We are aware of the effect of environmental and agricultural policies on the wellbeing of rural and urban communities, on public health and welfare, through climate change, or the abuse of drugs and pesticides. Protecting the environment and promoting sustainable development that respects social justice are issues of growing importance for trade unions.

With HE and FE institutions behaving as businesses, it is not surprising that we are seeing a sustained attack on the cost of labour. This includes proposals for poorer pensions and reduction of pay during the past decade. Moreover we have a dramatic increase of casual employment contracts and the systematic elimination of democratic processes in decision making with top-down appointed management teams.

We are observing the continuous "metrification" of every aspect of academic activity, translated as "performance management" for members of staff and the tuition fee driven customer/ consumer culture for our students. Workload is dramatically increasing.

The REF and TEF are translated from criteria for funding into individual performance indicators. Colleagues are excluded from aspects of academic life or even dismissed if their activity and profiles do not fit the "corporate strategy and expectations". These attacks are contravening our existing framework agreement yet UCU has not so far challenged the employers nationally and continues to deal with individual aspects of this attack.

As a Union we need to organise our collective fight against all the aspects of this combined strategy for the marketization of Higher and Further Education which requires cheap, flexible and compliant employees, fearful for their jobs and their future. We need to develop our campaigns and industrial action for:

  • The protection of the income of staff delivering both learning for our students and the creation of new knowledge

  • The protection and further development of democratic institutions and academic freedom in the decision making in HE and FE.

  • The protection of our employment terms and conditions against arbitrary changes to the national framework agreement, against casualisation and the epidemic of so called "performance management"

  • A respect for equality and diversity against racism, bigotry and any form of discrimination

  • The protection of our students against the tuition fees system where education is treated as a commodity

At a time when knowledge is able to contribute to universal wellbeing we are observing the "International University" being developed as a business venture responding not the needs of society but to the available "markets". Our part in this picture is the fight against marketization, for education and knowledge as a public good and a right not a privilege.

Last updated: 1 February 2018