Warwick UCU’s Letter to Stuart Croft Regarding COVID-19

Warwick UCU has sent the following letter to the Vice Chancellor, Stuart Croft, demanding that he take action to ensure the health and safety of staff and students at Warwick.

Dear Stuart,

Warwick UCU are writing regarding the outbreak of COVID-19. In light of the government’s wholly inadequate response to this crisis, we ask that the University ensure the following to enable the safety of staff and students:

– that the University immediately stop all non-essential, campus-based work so that we prevent the unnecessary spreading of the virus;
– that the University ensure that there is no loss of pay to any member of staff as a result of virus-related closures or isolation, regardless of contract type or visa status;
– that the University engage closely with campus trade unions to ensure that decisions taken regarding the the virus have the support of staff.

We are also very concerned about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is being used to victimise the Asian community in this country, and ask that the University join us in producing a statement showing solidarity with all those facing an escalation in racial discrimination.

Warwick UCU

Day 8: Throwing Down Science on the Picketline

Well, at 7 degrees and occasionally drizzling we were feeling the weather love today.

Our teach out, “Dealing with Climate Denial and Discombobulation (Climate Strike Warm Up)” opened with our fabulous Caseworker Coordinator and Vice-Chair, Alastair Smith, reminding us that it is indeed our University and that it is us – students and workers – whose campaigning and lobbying pressured the University to declare a climate emergency (as also discussed in his comment on the VC’s recent Green Week blog). So it’s fitting that student groups as well as our local Warwick & Leamington Labour MP pulled out of an official university-backed climate emergency panel that would have required participants to cross the picket line, forcing the university to postpone the event. If the university wants to be recognised for taking serious environmental action, it will also need to recognise the campus environment created by precarity, threatened pensions, frozen wages and the gender and BME pay gap. Managerialism will never solve a crisis created by managerialism!

This panel, co-run with GSD student Todd Olive, debunked the climate deniers and threw down some scary truths about climate change.

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And speaking of science, our picketers by the campus roundabout carried out some science of their own. In a highly rigorous study of driveby solidarity, they determined that in just 10 minutes over 20 solidarity honks were delivered!  Between that and our solidari-biscuits, we are feeling the love!

The day ended with a fabulous discussion of feminist traditions in the UK, US and Europe.

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In case the administration hasn’t yet got the message, this action remains fierce, determined and strong, taking inspiration from those feminist forebears.

Day 7: They say casualise….We say organise!!!

Today we had live protest songs on our Westwood picket (!!) and a good turnout for our early pickets despite the best efforts of the rain and traffic.

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The theme of the day was precarity and precarious workers, and we had three teach-outs led by Warwick Anti-Casualisation. First up was a teachout on Governing Through Precarity, which used examples from Foucault’s philosophy to illustrate how precarious working conditions are a foundation of neoliberalism – not simply, as is often claimed, a money-saving exercise dictated by markets – and how our agency is constrained by the systems we must work within when choosing an academic career. Katja Laug talked about the main issues for precarious workers as identified by UCU, and gave examples from the lived experience of precarious workers at Warwick, including her own.

We then moved to The Graduate, where a panel of precarious workers shared their own experiences, covering a range of obstacles to pursuing an academic career: covering childcare costs as a PhD student, completing an unfunded PhD while working full time, the impact of casual, poorly-recorded labour on visas for international staff, being treated as a less visible or valuable member of one’s department, fixed-term contracts and the reliance on what amounts to academic patronage for success as an early career researcher. Thank you to all for sharing your stories and solidarity. We also heard some disappointing statistics on the numbers of staff on fixed-term contracts, as well as how UCEA first promised to offer most staff permanent contracts in 2002, and have now set essentially the same target in 2020 as part of their latest offer. WAC are looking for new members to join their activist group – solidarity from staff on permanent contracts is welcome.
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Finally, students from the Warwick Anti Racism Society led a discussion on prison abolition, touching on issues around alternatives to punishment and carceral “justice” and the intersections between race, gender, class and the prison industrial complex. We heard perspectives on how states use prisons to stifle dissent in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the role of prison abolition in achieving racial justice in the UK. We also discussed some strategies for moving past our current models of policing and dividing bodies into ‘deserving’ and ‘other.’ It was a great and inspiring discussion, and we look forward to hearing more from the students involved – working with young people like you makes it all worth it!

Day 1: Same Bad Weather, Same Fighting Spirit

Well, the UUK/UCEA weather gods really showed their wrath today as over 100 staff and students braved the winds and rain to make clear that we are not giving up until we’ve secured our pensions, and made our jobs safe, secure, and equitable.

We had a fabulous opening rally with speakers from Warwick Anti-Casualisation, the Professional Services Staff, Working Group, Warwick Anti-Casualisation, Warwick Occupy, and Warwick Labour.

 

 

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We then relaunched our amazing #unistories project by replanting them in the ground near our picketline. These stories are at the heart of our picket, telling the stories of how the marketised university is hurting staff and students. These are our stories and they are the stories of why we fight.

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Having shown the weather gods that we’re not afraid of a few gale force winds and rain, we ended the day with two amazing teach outs in a packed (and thankfully cosy) house. First, our amazing colleagues from law used an umbrella to explain the securitising of student debt and gave an amazing history of the Trade Union Act.

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This was followed up by a collective envisioning of the University we could have and the University we are fighting for. We’ll look forward to seeing you all tomorrow!

Warwick UCU Guidance for 2019/2020 National Elections

By now, you will have hopefully received your ballots for the Trustee, Officer and NEC electionsThese elections are hugely important, but because there are so many different positions we are being asked to vote on, they can also be confusing to members which often leads to low turnout. We’re hoping that by giving some guidance we can change that!

Key information:

  • Voting closes on 4 March but it’s a postal ballot, so make sure you get your ballots in by the 2nd of March. If  you haven’t yet received your ballot, order a replacement here.
  • Because all NEC, officer and trustee ballots are conducted by single transferable vote (STV), voters MUST rank candidates in order of preference (1, 2, 3 etc) until they can no longer express a preference for any candidate. If you just mark a candidates name, it will be considered a spoiled ballot
  • Warwick UCU members are eligible to vote in the following categories: Trustee, Vice-President (becoming president in 2022-23), UK-elected members HE (5 seats; to include at least one post-92, one academic related), and Representatives of women members (5 seats; three HE and two FE members to be elected).
  • Two groups have officially put out slates of candidates: UCU Left and Grady4GS (which represents the group who organised Jo Grady’s campaign; Jo herself as GS is not endorsing any candidates).

Whilst we do not have a branch position, certain members of our committee are offering recommendations of candidates to vote for. Below are their recommendations: 

UCU NEC recommendations from Myka Tucker-Abramson (Chair, Warwick UCU)

These recommendations are based on my experience as a UCU activist for the past five years as well as my experience as part of a grassroots, national anti-casualisation group (FACE) before that. I am recommending three candidates whom I have worked with and think would be excellent. I am also recommending four other members who I know less well, but think are hugely impressive. All of the candidates I am endorsing or trans-allies.

Mike Finn as UK Elected Member HE
Mike is hugely knowledgeable about the HE sector and trade unionism. He has a proven track record of fighting for UCU to be a truly democratic union. He is principled, fearless, truly independent and has mentored numerous trade union activists. Mike Finn was also a branch secretary at Warwick UCU whilst he worked here for a year.

Mark Pendleton as UK Elected Member HE
Mark has been a highly effective organiser for the rights of casualised, LGBTQ+, and migrant members. He co-founded the peer-network group International & Broke, which supports HE migrant staff and was crucial to getting migrant representation in the union. Mark is an experienced and committed grassroots activist and would be a real asset on the HEC.

Rhiannon Lockley for Women’s Officer
Rhiannon is a fierce and committed trade unionist, feminist, and anti-racist activist and organiser, and has been a particularly important presence in the West Midlands regional UCU.  Based in Birmingham, she would also bring more of our regional perspective to national. Finally, she is a trans-inclusive feminist which is very important in these elections.

I am also recommending the following members who I know less well, but who I think would be excellent:

Rhian Elinor Keyes for Women’s Officer

Leon Rocha for UK-elected members HE

David Harvie for Midlands HE

Margot Hill for Vice President

Finally, I highly rate both people running as representatives of migrant members, Robin Orfitelli and Dima Chami, but this is uncontested.

 

UCU NEC Recommendations Gavin Schwartz-Leeper (Assistant Secretary, Warwick UCU)

I’ll be supporting Mike Finn for NEC. Mike is our former branch secretary and has been an active branch leader at Liverpool Hope and Exeter (beyond Warwick). Mike’s expertise in higher education policy (and Brexit in particular) gives him a really useful perspective on national issues, as has his years working as a journalist and in Westminster as a policy expert. He co-authored a call for a new Condcordat for HE with Jo Grady and has worked on aspects of academic freedom relating to trade unionism. He’s a tireless activist for international, anti-racist, pro-trans (and wider LGBTQ+), and anti-casualisation issues. While he’s a committed left-wing activist, he supports a non-factional and member-led union. Mike’s always been an independent voice and I can’t think of anyone I’d trust more to represent rank and file UCU members.

 

UCU NEC Recommendations from Justine Mercer (elected UCU NEC rep for the East and West Midlands)

Having served on the NEC for three years, I am recommending three candidates I know well and rate very highly:

Theresa Forde (University of Derby) as # 1 for Midlands HE (East and West)

Michael Carley (University of Bath)andJamie Melrose (University of Bristol) as # 1 and 2 for UK HE

Theresa Forde (Derby)
Theresa has done great work on the East Midlands Regional Committee whose meetings I attend. She has been an activist for many years. Currently, our region does not have an elected HEC rep from a post-1992 university that takes part in national bargaining. We need a strong voice from this section of our union so that post-1992 institutions can benefit from the kind of transformation the pre-1992 sector enjoyed as a result of the 2018 USS strike.

Michael Carley (Bath)
Michael is a strong, independent candidate. His strategic thinking and timely contributions are invaluable in getting the various UCU committees (NEC, HEC and Education) to focus on our longer-term goals rather than technical minutiae. I have witnessed this at first-hand many times. He also writes a very informative, accurate and non-partisan blog.

Jamie Melrose (Bristol)
Jamie served on UCU’s Commission for Effective Industrial Action and is another strategic thinker. He has an impressive track record in his local branch (Anti-casualisation rep, Secretary and caseworker) and in the South West region (Regional Chair). I have seen him in action at many Congresses and HE Conferences.

 

Committee of Warwick UCU Stands in Solidarity with the Residents of the Issawiyah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem

Please find below an email Warwick UCU Committee has sent to the Hebrew University Administration. This is part of an international campaign headed by Academia for Equality. For more information about the organisation and to read their statement, go here.

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To the Hebrew University administration,

We write as the committee of the Warwick University branch of the Universities and College Union (UCU) to express our objection to the Hebrew University’s involvement in police harassment of residents of the Issawiyah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

We were greatly concerned to learn of the Hebrew University’s longstanding involvement in restricting the movement of residents of Issawiyah by requesting a police closure of an entrance to the neighbourhood. More recently, we hear that the Hebrew University has escalated its role in police harassment of Palestinians through permitting police surveillance of Issawiyah from campus.

We unequivocally condemn these actions, which intensify the domination of Palestinians in Issawiyah, make Palestinian staff and students feel unsafe, and have no place in a university. We stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Issawiyah and at Hebrew University, and with our allies in Academia for Equality, which campaigns for access to higher education for all communities in Israel.

Universities should be spaces of openness, dialogue and learning. However, as Warwick students occupying our own Students Union in November reminded us, universities often remain complicit in the discriminatory and violent practices of wider society, and we must work hard to ensure that Universities become juster, more democratic spaces.

We call on the Hebrew University to respect Palestinian rights, end its involvement in police harassment of the residents of Issawiyah, and uphold its mission as an institution of learning.

Sincerely,
Warwick UCU

Warwick UCU supports striking French workers

As French public sector workers continue their strike action against damaging pension reforms, Warwick UCU sends a special message of support and solidarity to all members of Éducation SUD, the education workers’ union. In the midst of UCU’s own campaign against degradation of pensions, pay and working conditions, we salute our colleagues who have joined the struggle of millions of workers in France against the government’s drive to replace security with precarity among those who do essential work. Our solidarity across national borders is a recognized strength of all working people. Your fight against privatisation and austerity is inspiring to us; your victory will be ours as well.

 

Statement of Solidarity With Those Protesting Against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

Warwick UCU stands in solidarity with students, academics, and other citizens fighting to defend democratic rights in India by protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. We note that the Act, which professes to provide preferential treatment to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in the process of acquiring Indian citizenship, explicitly excludes Muslims from its purview. As many have pointed out, this exclusion, which is based on religious identity, is both immoral and unconstitutional. We condemn the use of violent police force in suppressing the aforementioned protests over the past week, which have involved the firing of tear gas bullets and water cannons, as well as alleged acts of sexual harassment, and the alleged use of firearms and pellets. Further, we condemn the undemocratic measures taken by the Indian government in response to the protests, including a widespread internet shutdown and curfew orders. 

We also note the horrifying violence inflicted by the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and other states where the police force is controlled by the ruling party. A large number of citizens, most of them Muslim, have been killed in UP, and several others elsewhere. There is a marked contrast between the treatment of protestors by police in BJP and non-BJP states: it can only be concluded from this that the ruling party has openly sanctioned violence against those who disagree with them, and in particular against Muslims. 

We have however been deeply moved by the massive and peaceful democratic protests that have taken place in many parts of the country. The citizens participating in these protests stand for democracy and constitutional principles, and the government whose policies they are opposing clearly stand for the opposite. The Modi government’s crackdown upon the protests is yet another chapter in its shameful abuse of human rights across the country. We wish to make it clear to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the ruling party that the world is watching them as they try to erode the world’s largest democracy.

We resolve to support all peaceful protests against the Act, and we affirm the right of students, academics, and all citizens to participate in such protests, in India and across the world. 

PS For more information, we recommend this “cheatsheet” which debunks state propaganda on the protests. 

Applying to our Local Warwick UCU Solidarity Fund

The solidarity form is now available for STP. If you have any questions please contact treasurer@warwickucu.org.uk directly.

We strongly encourage you to apply for solidarity support so that your commitment to Industrial Action is sustainable. Warwick UCU pledge to treat Solidarity Fund applications by precariously and casually employed tutors/workers/staff, as well as those earning below £30k per annum, as a matter of priority.

For the full guidance on the fund, please see here. Once you have read this, please follow this link to make an application.

The form will gather non-anonymous data to be used by Warwick UCU to manage our local solidarity funds. We have committed to ensure all those who are most vulnerable will be supported, and then we will allocate funds on a sliding basis of need. You will need to include evidence of your expected earnings in the period for which you have withdrawn your labour. (Please check the guidance).

If you have not been on strike and/or are able to contribute to the local Solidarity Fund please donate here.