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UCU members pledge to fight 'epidemic' of casualisation at 2021 Congress

16 June 2021 | last updated: 17 June 2021

At UCU's second successive virtual congress, members in higher and further education pledged to fight the scourge of casualisation, pay inequality and crisis-level workloads - and condemned the institutional racism that continues to exist in colleges and universities.

Delegates voted to launch a UK-wide campaign against an 'epidemic' of casualised, insecure and poorly remunerated employment contracts in the sectors, which are affecting staff in teaching, academic support, and professional service roles.

After a year in which the pandemic has placed new pressures on staff in post-16 education, UCU members also pledged to continue putting those most acutely affected by Covid, such as black, disabled and LGBT+ staff, at the heart of the union's fight for fairness.

Those attending Congress also voted in favour of decolonising the curriculum and pressuring institutions to redirect investments from those with links to 'extractive colonial practices', such as the arms trade. Motions calling for education for staff and students around the issue of gender-based violence and protecting the right to protest were also passed.

Delegates reaffirmed their commitment to a publicly funded education system that is fully inclusive and accessible to all. They also condemned the UK government for its war on the arts and humanities.

In Further Education Sector Conference, delegates voted to launch a pay campaign after staff in English colleges received an insulting 1% pay offer from employer body the Association of Colleges (AoC). The vote comes as staff at 11 colleges ballot for industrial action over pay.

Delegates in the sector specific conference went onto condemn rampant managerialism, pledging to launch a campaign around issues of autonomy at work, with a motion also passing which called on the AoC to introduce a disabled workers' charter.

In the Higher Education sector Conference (HESC), delegates committed to balloting for industrial action over cuts to the USS pension scheme. They also condemned cuts and redundancies in research, pledging to fight employers and lobby government.

Further votes on motions are still to be taken HESC. To read motion results so far click here.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Delegates at UCU Congress 2021 - representing over 100,000 staff in post-16 education - demonstrated their unwavering commitment to their profession, pledging to fight tooth and nail to rebuild publicly funded further and higher education sectors, for staff and students.

'Our members have shown they will not stand by and let employers hold down pay, increase workloads, or degrade pensions. And the UK government can be under no doubt that in universities and colleges we are ready to fight attacks on the arts, humanities and research.

'This Congress, our members demonstrated that equality is at the heart of everything they do, with delegates committing our union to increasing the scale and pace of our campaigns on issues such as gender-based violence, sexual harassment, racial discrimination, trans inclusion and wider LGBT+ liberation.'