2013 Higher Education Seminar – report


Ian and I attended this year’s Higher Education seminar in Harrogate, from 24-26 October.

The seminar theme was ‘Trade Unions Rising to the Challenge in an Age of Austerity’.

The event opened on Thursday evening.  Roger McKenzie, UNISON Assistant General Secretary for Organising, spoke about the challenges and opportunities that the government’s austerity agenda presents to the trade union movement.

Kevan Rowan, TUC Head of Organisation and Services, then spoke about trade union reps on the front line, tacking attacks on activists.

There was a full programme on Friday, beginning with an update from Jon Richards, National Secretary, UNISON Eduction and Children’s Services, on the year’s activities, and about the challenges ahead.  This was followed by a presentation from Dave Johnson, UNISON National Secretary for Business, Community and Environment.  Dave spoke about the two sides of privatisation and shared services, challenging the proposals and organising the staff affected.

After coffee, we broke into workshops.  Ian and I attended the workshop on dealing with TUPE transfers.  Other workshops were: Organising for industrial action; re-energising your branch – how to improve membership and activism in the branch; Building and sustaining a campaign and Dealing with grade drift – how to spot the warning signs and what to do about it.

The TUPE workshop was very interesting and has given us a lot to think about in terms of any possible outsourcing.  We have asked for a copy of the presentation and will make this available if anyone wants it.

After lunch, there was a workshop about the forthcoming strike day by Higher Education staff on 31 October.  The strike is about fair pay in HE.  Although AQA members weren’t balloted for this strike action, we do encourage members to show support for our HE colleagues by visiting the picket lines at Manchester University on their way into work on Thursday, and by taking part in any rallies that are organised.

A petition has been set up by UNISON, UCU and Unite the Union, and can be signed here.

Saturday‘s session began with an update on the 2014 pay strategy.  Full information will be sent out to all branches for their consideration.  Details include:

  • 1 year settlement in line with RPI;
  • Living wage to be extended for all staff;
  • Bottom 2 points on the salary scale to be deleted;

AQA aren’t directly affected by these pay negotiations, but we thought it would be useful for you to see some of the information.

The second session was about encouraging young people to become UNISON members.  Gary Williams, UNISON National Young Members Officer, presented this session.  Young members in UNISON have specific rule book benefits, and currently have to be 27 years or younger.  There will soon be consultation on whether 27 is the right cut-off for young members.

Our final workshop was about conference procedures.  Others included Learning from community organising and the living wage campaign to build a strong, vibrant and engaged branch; Pensions challenges, Is the Equality Act still relevant in HE and Putting Technicians on the Agenda.

Clytus Williams, the National Chair of the Standing Orders Committee gave an outline of the SOC responsibilities when branches submit motions to Conference.  He also gave some guidance on how motions should be presented.

After the final plenary session, the seminar closed at lunch time.

If you are interest in attending next year’s seminar, please let us know.

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