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.
In late 2022, the GMB, Unite and Unison issued a formal complaint to the TUC against the NEU alleging that “the NEU had actively sought to recruit school support staff and had intervened in pay negotiations between the three recognised unions and the local government employers, which cover school support staff.”
Members of the GMB, Unite and Unison responded, unsuccessfully, with a petition calling for a withdrawal of the complaint.
The claim was in response to a prior agreement made between all four unions that the NEU should not “recruit nor organise in areas already covered by other recognised TUC unions.” NEU leaders likely agreed to this proposal to appease the larger unions, but whether it’s members would have also agreed is unknown given that they were not consulted.
As the number of management teams at Universities across the country show their willingness to re-open negotiations in order to limit the damage of the Marking and Assessment Boycott (MAB) currently underway, there are some institutions that continue to threaten 100% reductions for "partial performance" of work. In the past, this kind of employer's lockout, when bosses refuse to pay you for any work done, has been upheld by the courts. Here at SFEU, the anarcho-syndicalist union in education, we would be surprised if the courts would act any differently - the courts do not reflect our interests but those of the people who control society in their benefit.
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) is a new union that cuts across the divide and has members in different education sectors within the same workplace. Here is the view of one of our student members on the current University strikes being taken by Unite, UCU and Unison, among other unions. Our power lies in organisation and in a unitary union based on direct democracy.
"What about the students?"
What about us? I'm a student, I support the strikes. Most of my friends are students, they do too. In fact, from my time attending rallies and picket lines (and generally chatting with people around me), I haven't spoken to a student who confidently stands against the strikes, I've only heard rumours they exist.
Unison, Unite, EIS, GMB and UCU have all proceded to cancel their strikes as a result of decisions by their union General Secretaries or Executives, a position that emerges out of the ACAS talks. To the majority of members of these unions, it's not clear exactly what they've been offered beyond a "limited improvement" to the pay offer for 2022-23. After so much sacrifice, this doesn't sound great. For Unison, as with UCU, there was no consultation with members and branches before the 'pause' was agreed.
The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU), will be standing with colleagues this week as we see staff at Universities and Colleges across the country striking in protest at worsening pay and pension provision. This action follows last month’s overwhelming ‘yes’ vote in a series of national ballots. After more than 8 in 10 of those voting, voted for action, the 24, 25 and 30 November may see as many as 70,000 UCU members on strike.
On some university campuses, strikes by UNISON and Unite have also been called. At the University of Leeds, for example, UNISON will strike for seven continuous days between 24 and 30 November. This is all good news in developing resistance against management's continued attempts to destroy our pensions and to continue to hold back on, or not to fulfil speedily enough, promises regarding equality and short-term contracts.
The tenth issue of Education Worker, the bulletin of the Education Workers Network of SolFed focuses on victimisation in education, including articles on victimisation of NUT reps, the Halesowen Four and London Met.
The North and South London Locals of the Solidarity Federation extend our solidarity to the workers at Queen Mary University. With the threat of redundancies across campus, workers have become energised, linked up with students, and exhibited a growing degree of organisation. In response, university management have suspended the Queen Mary UNISON branch secretary on trumped up disciplinary charges.
While the Solidarity Federation recognises the power of the union rests not in its officials, but in an active and self-organised membership, management clearly believe they can defeat their workforce by 'beheading' the union. Such attacks must be resisted.
Today saw SolFedders join with some 100 members of the public to support an unofficial strike by University of London cleaners at Senate House. The cleaners, who are primarily Latin American immigrants and who are employed by the privateer Balfour Beatty, struck over unpaid wages. With some cleaners not having been paid for three months, it was decided yesterday that official union channels weren’t working and the workers called for a strike to begin today at 8am.
After the last UCU pensions strike in March, several rank & file union members, upset at the lack of inter-union unity, set up the Manchester University Staff Against the Cuts group (MUSAC). The group has been meeting regularly and consists of members of Unite, Unison and UCU. Members of Manchester EWN are also involved.
It has been good to meet with people whose criticisms of the existing unions match our own in many ways. The group has held a weekly stall in the University, giving out leaflets in support of various anti-cut campaigns.