The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) would like to express its heartfelt thanks for the support shown by students at recent graduation ceremonies. The Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) has been a difficult time for both staff and students, but it is clear that we stand in solidarity together against those institutions that would rather penalise its workers than negotiate with them. At some institutions, the MAB has had such a huge impact that graduation and classification of degrees has been severely affected. These huge sacrifices in terms of both pay and of grades demonstrate that that together we can make a difference and cracks are starting to show in the employers' association (UCEA), with one university, Queen's University Belfast, being suspended from UCEA for breaking ranks and brokering a local agreement. It is becoming clear we will not give up until our demands are met and after nearly 8 weeks of boycott action, UCEA has finally agreed to negotiate with the UCU. It is only our sustained action as workers that has brought the employers to the table: the recent announcement on the restoration of USS pensions is evidence that direct action in the form of strikes and a boycotts work.
The SFEU continues to stand with all members of the education unions, whether in Higher Education or in schools and colleges, in their calls for fairness and equality, and we continue to advocate for one union for education workers. While in some localities there is joint action at universities between Unison, Unite and UCU, the hierarchical nature of H.E. means that solidarity is made more difficult and divisions persist. Important though they are, we advocate joint action around more than just specific workplace issues - the recent proposal of the government to cap courses that are perceived by their criteria to 'underperform' in terms of graduates achieving well-paid, professional jobs, shows that the Tories value monetary gain over graduates' potential social contribution, lifestyle choices and even happiness. The SFEU question that in judging their 'performance', the government has failed to take into account that these degrees often attract students from working-class backgrounds, women and from minority ethnic backgrounds who systematically earn less and enjoy fewer opportunities than their white, male, middle class peers. Our union fights for improvements in pay and conditions but also has a vision of the kind of education - and society - we want in the future, one based on social justice, equality of opportunity and useful labour. We are there for all workers in education. One voice, one union.