CovUniShame! Lecturers and students Say No to Coventry University union busting
Last Wednesday saw an energetic protest outside the Graham Sutherland Building at Coventry University against the University’s anti-union actions. The protest was lively and included a wide range of speakers, from the local and national University and College Union, the TUC, the Socialist Party and Socialist Students plus others.
Coventry University Union Busting
Coventry University has become infamous for its attempts to undermine trade unions, such as last year when it tried to sack a group of English pre-sessional teachers for exercising their legal right to collective representation by UCU. This attempted was defeated by the grass-roots campaigning of the Coventry UCU branch leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the University management.
This is evident by the current actions of the Coventry University and its current attempts at union busting. The University has, in a covert move to undermine the UCU, recognised its Staff Consultative Group (SCG) as a trade union and thus signed a recognition agreement with it.
As Dave Nellist (Ex-Labour MP) argued at the protest, this is not acceptable. Dave said that “This is about control” and that “There is a difference between an employers union and a trade union, and a lot of space between the two”. By secretly recognising the SCG as a union, the University seeks to undermine the grassroots work and organisation of the local UCU, by setting up a sham ‘union’ that is entirely controlled by the University. This is comparable to the scab unions set up during the miner strike to damage the work of the NUM and the strikers.
The marketisation of education
This situation should come as no surprise, and if not defeated at Coventry could become the norm nationally. Since the election of Thatcher and then continued under the Blair / Brown New Labour years and accelerated under the Conservative – Liberal coalition, education has been increasingly treated like many other public services, with increasing privatisation and business style-managment.
Coventry University has been a prime example of this where the management treat the University like a business, causing the Guardian to compare it to the management of Sports Direct (27/11/2016). The University management receive pay rises and salaries into the hundreds of thousands, while the working conditions of ordinary staff are attacked. This is clear when seeing the massive shift away from giving staff salaried contracts and instead increasing the presence of hourly-paid lecturers.
The Coventry Socialist Students group has a proud track record of opposing these changes over the last few years and has always supported the UCU in any action they have taken.
Students and Workers Unite and Fight
The key to fighting against these sort of attacks is with grass-roots organisation, linking up the student and labour movement. As Aidan O’Toole (Socialist Students Steering Committee) stated at the demo, “The University management doesn’t fear meetings or negotiations alone, it fears public protests and the mobilisation of its staff and students. This is the key to fighting for a more democratic University and protecting the working conditions of University staff.”
The Socialist Party and Socialist Students have always made a point to argue this and, unlike the NUS, have given full support to the UCU’s national strike over attacks to its members pensions; as well as supporting this demonstration.
It is key to highlight that these attacks on University staff are not in the interest of the staff themselves, or the students they teach, but only go to help the University management in turning Coventry University more into a business.
The UCU has called a national demonstration in Coventry at 1pm on the 16th of May, assembling outside the Graham Sutherland building, to further highlight the actions of the University. We fully support this call and urge that University staff, students and everyone who supports the fight for independent trade unions and is against capitalism destroying our education, to attend.