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UCU at the TUC Congress

It was a busy and historic few days in Brighton for UCU delegates at the annual TUC congress. The union's motion on climate change was incorporated into a bigger debate on the issue, which resulted in unequivocal support for the school climate strikers and the action on Friday 20 September.

TUC delegation 2019

The four-day conference kicked off on Sunday afternoon with a lobby of delegates by climate activists urging them to back UCU's climate motion. UCU general secretary Jo Grady was amongst the speakers and reiterated UCU's support and respect for the student climate strikers, which was also the theme of an article she wrote during the week.

Jo McNeill was the first UCU delegate to take to the stage when she spoke in the pensions debate on Sunday afternoon. She told the congress that pensions are not a benefit, they are hard-earned deferred pay and got strong support when she said that the USS and pay ballots would open on Monday.

Margot Hill was first up on Monday, speaking in the pay debate. She made the case for sectoral collective bargaining, especially in further education, to stop employers ignoring nationally agreed pay rises.

Joanna De Groot followed her to make the case for trade union history to be taught in schools. As well as teaching about the struggles people had to fight to win the rights we now take for granted, she said more had to be done to explain the benefits of being in a union and their efforts to build a better society.

On Tuesday, UCU president Douglas Chalmers presented the union's motion on apprenticeships. He argued that they should be a highly valuable part of the education sector that allow people to earn while they learn. But warned that the drive to expand them had often been at the expense of quality and genuine job creation.

Tuesday afternoon's session kicked off with the climate crisis debate, which saw UCU general secretary Jo Grady speak twice. She said the climate strikes represented one of the most impressive mass mobilisations the world has seen. Speaking to the Guardian, she said the motion signified real support for the efforts of the school strikers and is a chance for workers to show we are behind them.

Later that afternoon, Victoria Showunmi spoke in the gender pay debate and took the opportunity to highlight that the situation was even worse for lack women who suffer a larger gap than the one reported, which uses data for white women.

Prison educator Brian Hamilton rounded off UCU's contributions from the main stage on Wednesday morning when he spoke about the important role played by Trades Council. He also took the opportunity to thank Nottingham Trades Council for their support of the UCU members at Nottingham College embarking on the first of 15 days of strike action.

Outside the main debates, UCU was also active at fringe meetings with delegates taking the opportunity to contribute to a range of debates at various meetings. The union was well represented at climate crisis meetings with Jo Grady, Vicky Blake and Sean Vernell all speaking on panels. Jo also speak on the panel at meetings on pensions and repealing trade union laws, while Douglas Chalmers spoke at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign meeting.




Last updated: 13 September 2019