Through our contacts with the TUC, EI and other education unions UCU is able to join in campaigning work at international level on issues affecting human and trade union rights.
We are involved in campaigns concerned with Burma, Colombia, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and the Middle East.
See also our policy on international greylisting and boycotts.
UCU believes that academic freedom should be the cornerstone of university and college teaching and research. As well as watching over this issue at national level UCU works with other higher education unions and organisations campaigning for education worldwide to monitor and resist attempts to erode academic freedom.
Academic freedom international study
In 2009 UCU commissioned a piece of independent research into academic freedom in Burma, Colombia, Israel, Palestine and Zimbabwe from Education International. You can read the final report here.
UCU also supports the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR), an organising and campaigning body with the fundamental purpose of defending and improving the rights of trade unions and trade unionists throughout the world. It aims are:
- to defend and extend the rights of trade unions and trade unionists throughout the world
- to collect information and increase awareness of trade union rights and their violations
- to carry out its activities in the spirit of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation Conventions and appropriate international treaties.
Another priority area has been Southern Africa and particularly the campaign for human and trade union rights in Zimbabwe. UCU is also affiliated to Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA).
Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA) campaigns with the people of Southern Africa as they strive to build a better future. Working for peace, democracy and development across the region, ACTSA is the successor organisation to the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
ACTSA influences decision-makers in Britain and Europe on policies that affect Southern Africa. It keeps the region in the public and political spotlight through lobbying, publication of reports and briefings and media work.
- Academic Freedom International Study: Zimbabwe chapter [394kb] (opens in a new window)
- Action for Southern Africa (ACTSA)
Since 2011 UCU has been campaigning with Education International, MENA Solidarity, TUC and Amnesty International for the release of teacher trade unionists in Bahrain, including the president of the Bahraini Teachers' Association, Mahdi Abu Dheeb.
- Education International (EI) - Bahrain
- Education International (EI) - Bahrain: Academic freedom under threat
- MENA Solidarity Campaign
- Amnesty International - Bahrain
- Amnesty International -Message of thanks from freed Bahrain teacher, Jalila al Salman
- Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC) believes that the people of Cuba, like any other nation, must be free to decide their own internal affairs without outside interference.
- CSC defends, therefore, Cuba's right to national sovereignty, independence and self-determination.
- CSC calls for an end to the US trade blockade against Cuba and for the British government to continue to oppose it.
CSC calls for the normalisation of all diplomatic, economic, cultural and scientific relations with Cuba by the US government.
Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a trade unionist. Thousands of trade unionists have been murdered there since 1989, mostly by right-wing paramilitaries in collusion with the security forces. Other violations of workers' human rights include threats, displacement, declaration of strikes as illegal and arbitrary detention of trade unionists.
UCU works closely with Justice for Colombia to support our Colombian colleagues and solidarity with academics, teachers and education workers who are under threat remains one of our priorities. Below is a list of our recent activity in this area.
Find the latest information on the JFC website.
General secretary visits Colombia
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt visited Colombia in 2009. A short video, shown as part as the keynote speech to Congress, looks at the threat to trade unionists in the country.
Over recent years UCU has been involved in the campaign to support our Greek colleagues in their struggles to defend jobs, working conditions and quality public services, including education.
UCU sent this message of solidarity when colleagues at the National Technical University of Athens took strike action in 2013:
'The University and College Union (UCU) is the largest trade union and professional association for academics and education professionals working in higher and further education throughout the United Kingdom. On behalf of 117,000 UCU members, I would like to express our solidarity with your struggle to defend the quality of education and research at the National Technical University of Athens. Your struggle at the National Technical University is part of a wider national and international campaign to defend the quality of public higher education. And as part of that campaign we look forward to strengthening the links between higher education workers in Greece and the UK.'
Simon Renton, UCU President
Read Congress motions 56 and 57 for more information on UCU's policy.
Education International (EI) and its European organisation, the ETUCE, expressed solidarity with Greek teachers and their union in their call to maintain their right to strike.
Guatemala is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for trade unionists, alongside Colombia. Despite both national and international condemnation of the escalating levels of violence, the Guatemalan government has not yet undertaken any serious investigations nor made any arrests in connection with reported incidents, demonstrating near total impunity towards the perpetrators of these continual violations of fundamental human rights in the country.
- ITUC Global Rights Index 2014 - The world's worst countries for workers
- ITUC website - Guatemala: end impunity now!
UCU opposed to the occupation of Iraq and is one of the many UK unions affiliated to the Stop the War Coalition. UCU also believes that Iraqi trade unions have an important role to play in the establishment of a democratic civil society. In Britain, practical support for the Iraqi trade unions is channeled mainly through the TUC.
UCU supports the Friends of Bir Zeit University and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which are working to build civil society in Palestine.
Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP) was formed in 1980 with the purpose of mobilising and co-ordinating support for the cause of the Palestinian people within the trade union movement. Its aims are:
- to build support within the trade union and labour movement for the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination within an independent sovereign state.
- to build links between British and Palestinian workers in general, and between British trade unions and the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions.
The Venezuela Solidarity Campaign is a broad-based campaign in solidarity with the people of Venezuela. The aims are to:
- defend Venezuela's sovereignty and independence;
- support the right of the Venezuelan people to determine their own future free from external intervention;
- defend the achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution;
- provide accurate and up-to-date information in support of democracy and social progress in Venezuela;
- support and build activity around these objectives throughout Britain, within parliament, regional and local government, the trade unions, amongst women, lesbian and gay communities, Black, Asian and Latin American communities, students and others.