Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Education Is Not For Sale

May 23rd has seen a series of events organised by NATFHE and AUT as part of the dispute with the employers over our pay claim. After a period of 'phoney war' and a burst of rival PR conflicts we seem to have reached a bit of a stalemate, but there are some victories - the management at Northumbria University has temporarily backed off from deducting 100% off salaries for not marking assignments, which will probably pt others attempting the same. The legal arguments about whether we can have our pay docked without specific disciplinary procedures will be a minefield. The mood of lecturers seems to be one of defianceIn Leeds the AUT and NATFHE had a joint and quite high-spirited rally this lunchtime, although the t-shirts with the slogan 'Make My Day, Dock My Pay' seemed a bit risky! At Leeds Metropolitan University there is still a bit of a phoney war war atmosphere, but things have already hotted up at Leeds University after their vice-chancellor threatened to dock 30% off wages for not marking assessed work.

This is in the background as NATFHE and the AUT merge into the new UCU for lecturers in the whole of higher and furhter education. To mark this the Rank and File left is organising a conference at London Metropolitan University to launch a left current in the new union. Speakers (invited, that is) include Stephen Rose, Tony Benn, Hilary Wainwright, Sheila Rowbotham, Alex Callinicos and many others. The line-up of workshops is wide-ranging and impressive, connecting political, educational and trade union issues in an imaginative manner. It looks good and should be of interest to anyone in NATFHE or the AUT. There's more information at the web-site, www.uculeft.org, so I hope to see people there.


AN said...

Is a phoney war one conducted on the telepone?

badmatthew said...

Ah, that's why I'm in Higher Education - try to teach you young 'uns something about the past.

AN said...

More serioulsy, is the "Rank and File" that you refer to an existing organisation, or one being laucnhed during this dispute?

Jim Jay said...

Badmatthew - This is great news

AN - I recommend visiting the website to answer your question - partially anyway (although I'd wear sunglasses before you click, man them's bright colours!)

AN said...

Well I had read the web-site, but missed the bit down the bottom saying it was to "launch an new left current".
But the reason I asked is that the conference does not seem to be asking what the left current in the union is for?
I did laugh out loud to see that the "designer" of the web page actually has a credit on the web page. It is surely the loudest colour scheme since there was an explosion in a Smarties factory

badmatthew said...

It's being launched by the Rank and File group in NATFHE, which means that the SWP is going to play a big role. I noticed that a member of the Socialist Unity Network is a sponsor. The extent to which other people are involved and can play a leading role in a democratic current will be one measure of its success. I refuse to write it off in advance. I thought I'd capitalised that Rank and File in the blog entry as a clue. Let's see how it turns out. The web-site spells out what it is meant to be for.

AN said...

My question was not meant to be seen as writing it off, or dissmissive in any way (except about the web site design where Ok I am justifiabaly dissmissive) - But i have a genuine question that there did not seem to be a session dedicated to discusung the aims and objectives of the new organisation. How can people be expected to throw themselves behind an initiative if there isn't a debate what it is about?

From what you are saying here there are elements of both novelty and continuity, as it is the R&F organistaion in NATFHE being broadened out to the AUT as well?

Soo my question remains, what excatly is the strategic objectives of a R&F group? I don't know what a R&F group actually means given the current state of the unions, with the weakness of shop-floor organisation, and increased reliance upon officials.

For example are there actually existing networks of militants in the sector that this group will try to link with? What will be the relationship with the union officials? Is it a broad left?

badmatthew said...

Ah, sorry, basic background is that in June NATFHE and the AUT are uniting into the UCU. This conference is designed to launch a left inside the new formation - and at a time when we are engaged in industrial action. Your questions are useful and appropriate and I don't have the answers. There are certainly militants involved, but whether it'll go wider I don't know. i've got a certain amount of cynicism about big-name big-rhetoric events that provide a good show without dealing with basic issues or provinding democratic structures, but I'm willing to hold that cynicism in check until I see what it's like. I'll report back after JUne 24th.