The #CoronaContract website is here: https://coronacontract.org/ ‘This website contains relevant information, actions and resources to further the #CoronaContract campaign to secure the livelihoods of casualised university and college staff.’
UCU has adopted a policy to campaign for postgraduate researchers (PGRs) to be recognised as members of staff. We are keen to discuss this with our PGR members and to hear your ideas and thoughts about the campaign. To register for the event and to submit any questions you may have please click on the link above.
In a quorate General Meeting held on 28.10.20, members voted to endorse Version 2 Track changes version of Complementary Document regarding Dual Delivery Plan Draft
Motion for Brunel branch on ‘hard’ or ‘no-deal’ Brexit
This UCU branch notes that no major country has ever left the European Union or similar trading bloc. A recent report by the independent (King’s College London based) research group, The UK in a Changing Europe, stated that “no deal will not get Brexit done” and instead would be the start of a “period of prolonged uncertainty for citizens, workers and businesses”. Unfortunately, in terms of securing a proper UK/EU trade deal (to replace the current trading arrangements), the UK is running out of time. At present, during the current so-called transition period, we are trading with the EU on the same level ‘single market customs union’ basis that we did when we were still in the EU. That privileged position will come to an abrupt end at the end of this year (when the transition period expires), unless a mutually beneficial new trading relationship is negotiated. At present, a ‘no deal’ exit looks increasingly likely. Such an exit is expected to cause
• GDP 5% to 10% lower over the course of the next 10-15 years than it would have been, had the UK stayed in the EU. Treasury data also states that the limited free trade deal planned with the EU would strip 6.7% from the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP) over a similar time scale – meaning £130bn of lost growth.
• The UK finding itself trading with the EU on purely World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, with import tariffs on goods ranging from 3–25% and additional non-tariff barriers adding a further 14%.
• A possible increase in net public borrowing of between £96bn and £141bn by 2035/2036, according to the Government’s long-term analysis. Government borrowing has already risen by an extra £200bn since March to deal with Covid-19.
• Foreign Direct Investment to fall by around 24% and overall business investment by 3.5% over the long term.
• The UK’s trade with its biggest partner, the EU – which accounts for 49% of UK trade with a further 10% from countries with an existing Free Trade Agreement with the EU – damaged.
• As well as the high ‘no deal’ trade tariff costs, the Government’s modelled ‘no deal’ scenario also includes non-tariff-related costs (in UK/EU trade) of 10% for goods and 11% for services. Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) include customs checks, regulatory barriers, rules of origin, administration costs, etc.
• Significant delays at UK borders, with supply shortages in key sectors for both businesses and households.
• Further negative effects on our environment, health, security, workers’ rights, consumer protection and the integrity of the UK.
This UCU branch notes the likely, multiple negative consequences of these economic and other effects of a ‘hard’ or ‘no-deal’ Brexit on higher education and those working within the sector.
This UCU branch further notes with regret that the national UCU, consumed as it is by issues arising from the COVD-19 pandemic, has had little to say about this impending disaster.
This UCU branch therefore calls on the national UCU to use its profile and resources to apply pressure on the government to reach comprehensive deals with the EU on trade and other issues in order to avoid the multiple negative consequences outlined above.
Motion by UCU Branch Committee On Brunel’s Return to Work Plan
This branch notes:
1. UCU branch officials have been in talks with Brunel University’s Senior Management in the Delivery of Education group, in the Health and Safety Group and in the Staff Consultative Committee. These talks have been productive in some regards but there are major areas of concern outstanding.
2. That from the outset of these Covid-19 discussions the UCU branch strategy was that Brunel should provide on-campus testing for staff and students and an effective on-campus track and trace system, in order to mitigate the national government’s failure to provide an effective system of testing, track and trace. Brunel could have been a ‘market leader’ in this regard. Exeter University for example is offering staff and students on-campus testing for C-19. While Brunel has indicated that they are in discussion with Hillingdon Borough and other local universities to offer on-campus testing, we have had no clear statement as to where these plans are and when or if they will be effectively implemented.
3. That branch officials have repeatedly insisted that online teaching should be the default mode of delivery (as per the official UCU view), citing both the latest Independent Sage and “official” Sage reports.
4. That in the first wave of Covid-19 Brunel University’s Dr Jie Chen died of Covid-19 on Sunday March 29th, aged 55.
5. That the University has opted for a partial normal ‘campus’ experience for students which includes some on-campus face to face teaching.
6. That there are wide variations in the demands being made on staff in different departments to deliver on-campus face to face teaching, that these are inconsistent and therefore unfair and present a public health risk to staff and students.
7. That branch officials have repeatedly insisted that mask wearing should be mandatory on campus in indoor environments, including corridors and in seminar situations. By contrast the university has chosen to hide behind shifting government guidelines on this issue and resists making mask wearing mandatory or even strongly recommending it as a civic obligation.
8. This motion recognises that there have been some positives to come out of the discussions, including the university making 2 meters the standard for Social Distancing and the University’s explicit recognition of the 1996 Employment Act Section 44 which allows employees to raise health and safety concerns without detriment to their job, salary or role, etc.
This branch believes:
1. That in an overall assessment of progress made, the return to work model delivered by the university does not command the confidence of this branch and constitutes an unacceptable public health risk to staff and students.
2. That with Covid-19 rates escalating nationally, pressure for a return to online delivery and further lockdown restrictions (on campus and/or nationally) are likely to become irresistible in the next few weeks.
This branch resolves:
1. To demand that Brunel University make on-line delivery of teaching in accordance with expert scientific opinion (e.g. Independent SAGE) the default position.
2. To demand that where it is impossible to deliver parts of the educational provision on-line, the university must arrange regular testing and tracing for students and staff and that wearing a mask in seminars and any indoor teaching scenarios is made compulsory.
3. To demand that no-one will be required to undertake on-campus face-to-face teaching if they express the wish not to do so.
BLM Solidarity motion
Brunel UCU raises our voices with Black Lives Matter protesters across the world in solidarity with and memory of George Floyd and Rayshard Brook, and everyone who has experienced state brutality, systemic and institutional racism, and discrimination, all of which stem from capitalist exploitation. We condemn unequivocally white supremacy and global anti-Blackness and call on the University, staff, and students to take action in order to address the structures that perpetuate them in our institution. To this end:
I. We express our solidarity to the protesters in the USA. Police murders continue and prisons are modern day labour houses, where a disproportionate population of black men provide their unfree labour. The huge poverty divide and ‘attainment gap’ reflect the horrendous realities of the systemic and ongoing racism and exploitation of Black African Americans, as well as across multi-ethnic working class communities. Covid-19 has further exacerbated the existing inequalities – with disproportionate death rates among poor African-Americans as a result of private healthcare – and has increased homelessness and unemployment. We note the systematic exploitation and racism in the land of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. We note the historical continuities between the institution of the police as ‘slave-captors’ and the current continuity of the US military, who, along with the British military and NATO, act as the global police. Human life, for both the US police and military, has a different value depending on colour, class, and geography.
II. We unite our voices with protesters in Britain fighting against racism and police brutality. We demand justice for Simeon Francis, Shekou Bayou, Sarah Reed, Sean Riggs, Mark Duggan, Charles de Menezes, and many others who have died in the hands of the state and the police. In Britain, racism and exploitation take many forms, including the disproportionate incarceration of BAME people, stop-and-search tactics, and the Prevent Programme. This is a country whose own history is drenched in the blood of millions of colonised — including internally— enslaved and brutalised in the making of the Empire. The biggest recent example of state racism is the Windrush scandal and Grenfell. Moreover, capitalism sustains and feeds racism not only in terms of exploitation, but also through ‘divide and rule’ such as the increasing racism and xenophobia in recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that systemic racism is among the key factors of BAME deaths, particularly relating to social and economic inequalities. BAME and working class people are due to be hit the hardest in terms of unemployment and homelessness in the developing economic recession. As Angela Davis states, “racism is integrally linked to capitalism”.
III. As Brunel UCU members we want to fight anti-black racism and exploitation in our workplace. The Equality in HE report (2017) and the UCU casualisation report (2020) highlight the direct and undeniable effects of racism and inequality on the academic workforce. Indeed, precarious labour disproportionately affects the ethnicity and gender pay gap. In the midst of the pandemic, not only are BAME people disproportionately affected directly by Covid-19, but also they are indirectly affected by losing their employment. In this direction, and while we welcome the University’s statement on Black Lives Matter, we call on the University to implement the following in our fight against racism and exploitation:
1. To renew fixed-term and casual contracts, and to secure permanent employment for all casualised university and college workers.
2. To ensure the safety of staff members and students who are able to return to campus by following the Health and Safety guidance and working with all the trade unions on campus to establish safe working conditions AND ensure that staff members who are vulnerable (or live with or are responsible for vulnerable people) face no attrition for teaching only online.
3. To openly speak up against the Prevent programme, which disproportionately targets BAME students and colleagues, and turns all of us into spies, gravely injuring our duty of care, academic freedom and freedom of speech.
4. To end the partnership with Metropolitan Police. At a time when police brutality is disproportionately affecting black people, it is extremely worrying that Brunel university is part of a consortium, which has been awarded the contract to deliver degree apprenticeships and the degree holder programmes for the Metropolitan Police.
5. To create a concrete action plan for the decolonisation of the curriculum across the campus.
6. To openly speak up against the hostile environment policies that criminalise international students, who are regularly asked to prove their status as students.
7. To address the disproportionality of the number of BAME academics compared to those of white backgrounds, and serious disproportionality of those holding senior positions, or promoted fairly.
IV. We call on all colleagues, students and workers in higher education to organise the struggle around the aforementioned demands AND also to:
1) Support BAME colleagues and students in rooting out racism in the workplace, and the institutional racism and inequality that exacerbates these.
2) Raise their voices against:
● the reduction in staff numbers — fight to renew fixed-term and casual contracts, and to make permanent all members of staff on these contracts
● the worsening working conditions and increased workload using the pandemic as an excuse.
● the expectation to work in unsafe working conditions resulting from COVID-19 and against the insufficient measures to protect staff and students.
○ Tuition fees freeze for the current academic year.
○ Funded extensions for all doctoral and postdoctoral research
○ Free accommodation to university and privately-ran student residence halls.
○ Funding support for the protection of unemployed students.