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UCU Scotland Congress 2015

A general election education hustings and debates on university governance, sexism on campus, anti-casualisation and zero-hours contracts were among the events at the UCU Scotland annual conference on Friday 27 March 2015

The conference, held at the John McIntyre Centre at the University of Edinburgh, was address by UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt.
The general election hustings involved shadow education secretary Iain Gray MSP, George Adam MSP from the Scottish National Party and representatives from the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Scottish Green Party and Scottish Conservative Party.

Resolutions of the 9th UCU Scotland Congress


UCU Scotland congress congratulates the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning on the commitment to enact legislation on HE Governance. This despite vociferous opposition from Scottish Chairs of Court and Universities Scotland, organisations which at the time of the von Prondzynski review argued against any move towards transparency or democracy and which responded to the publication of the report by introducing a code of governance which sought to further enshrine the status quo.

Conference believes that only when university governance is properly democratised will the energies of the university community be able to emerge from the business model too often accepted by university Courts.

Congress therefore instructs the national officers, national executive committee and branch committees to continue to campaign for the full implementation of the von

Prondzynski recommendations, including trade union nominees, elected chairs, gender balance and robust protection of academic freedom. Further we restate our commitment to protect public universities that are resourced by and accountable to the wider community.


UCU Scotland restates the essential requirement for university staff to have freedom to objectively challenge perceived wisdom, question orthodoxy, and pursue radical ideas. To enable and protect the intellectual endeavours of universities any definition of Academic Freedom must be widely drawn to protect all staff engaged in research, teaching, scholarship or who make any contribution to academic activity. A narrow definition will restrict the activities of individuals, limit the learning opportunities of students and harm institutions. UCU Scotland will continue to campaign to ensure academic freedom is enhanced, enshrined in law, and applicable to all academic and related staff within the sector.


UCU Scotland Congress condemns the counter-terrorism and security bill recently amended in the Lords and, in particular, the clauses to prevent 'extremism' on campus.

UCUS recognises that this is counter to the right to academic freedom in both Scottish and UK legislation.

UCUS instructs the officers to write to all members to encourage them to write to their MPs to throw out this legislation (with suggestions of points to make) and to join with other trade unions, STUC, human rights, campaigning and civil society organisations to campaign against the implementation of this bill.

Congress agrees that UCUS should engage in a wide ranging campaign with other trade unions, STUC, human rights, campaigning and civil society organisations against the implementation and for the repeal of this bill. This should include a media campaign, letter writing to MPs and demonstrations.

Congress notes that measures such as the counter-terrorism and security bill underline the need to expand the definition of academic freedom within the 2005 FE and HE act, as proposed currently by the Scottish government in the debate on university governance.


Congress notes with concern that most Scottish Universities are not Living Wage employers. A Living Wage employer agrees to pay all employees, and require all companies providing subcontracted and outsourced services to pay their employees, at or above the living wage. Congress calls on all Scottish universities to become Living Wage employers, and for UCU branches and UCU Scotland officers to include this issue in bargaining and campaigning.


UCU Scotland welcome the guidance from the Scottish Funding Council for universities to mainstream equalities as part of the Outcome Agreements, HEIs in Scotland have failed to make impact on the gender pay gap, particularly at the higher and lower ends of the pay scale. As the results from REF begin to permeate throughout management strategies, UCU Scotland is increasingly concerned that the impact of such measurements continues to embed structural inequalities within the system, as is illustrated by the REF "transfer windows" in terms of parachuting highly paid male academics into departments to address the managerial constructs of measuring research and in occupational segregation where gender based discrimination creates divisions both horizontal and vertical within Scottish

Universities. Coupled with increasing demands from ludicrous workloads, it is time for universities to address not only the gender pay gap but also to tackle constructs that inherently favour inequality.

UCU Scotland calls on the Executive to collect and publish the equal pay audits of HEIs in Scotland and to name and shame those institutions who have failed to make significant progress and to lobby the SFC to ensure that addressing the gender pay gap is directly referred to in the Funding Letter to HEIs. Congress also calls on branches to ensure that equality issues are raised in any outcome agreement discussions based on analysis of the pay audits from UCU Scotland.


Increased demands on staff's time such as the REF, student expectation & NSS and cost cutting have resulted in very high workloads for many staff working at HEIs in Scotland.

University management have not engaged seriously with this issue or made genuine attempts to address it. We also note the UCU Workload and Stress survey of 2014 and the effect on UCU members' health and safety. UCU Scotland call on members to:

  • record their actual hours worked and draw management attention to excessive hours and the effects of these on their work-life balance, using the UCU workload calculator
  • record requests for annual leave and any impediments to taking take their full leave entitlement
  • participate in Work your Proper Hours Day 2015 (27 Feb 2015).

Further, UCU Scotland calls on university management to engage constructively with branches to tackle the issue of excessive workloads based on the UCU models and advice.


Congress recognises that many retired UCU members wish to remain active in research and scholarship for which they need ongoing use of their university library, access to institutional electronic resources, participation in collegial intercourse etc.

It further notes that it is usual in many universities, but not routine everywhere, for retired members who do not qualify for emeritus status to be offered honorary membership of their university and that this is beneficial in many ways to the institution as well as to the individual.

Congress calls on Executive actively to promote and to facilitate agreements with all

Scottish HEI's, preferably endorsed by Universities Scotland as a national recommendation, by which all retirees who express the desire to continue their scholarly work are, as established good practice, offered honorary status and / or all of its practical benefits.


Conference notes that despite a commitment to equality by all universities and student unions across the country, there is still a significant problem of sexism, gender inequality and everyday violation of women's bodily autonomy on campus. One of the most worrying aspects of this is often described as 'lad culture' but could alternatively be discussed in terms of 'rape culture'. Recent high profile cases have plagued the University sector in the US, and the UK is unfortunately not immune from this problem.

Women students and staff should be able to study and work in an atmosphere where their sex does not mean that they are objectified or feel sexually threatened. However, many women are subjected to sexist advertising of events, inappropriate jokes and demeaning comments on a regular basis. The dismissing of abusive language by describing it as 'banter' is of particular concern as it serves to trivialise women's legitimate concerns and reinforce the stereotype that women who refuse to be subjected to sexism simply have no sense of humour. At its worst, it creates an atmosphere where consent is assumed rather than necessary, and women feel afraid to come forward when they are assaulted because of the stigma and the fear of not being believed.

Women who are raped or sexually assaulted are often too afraid to report it as they have seen examples of other women being vilified and attacked for making an accusation of sexual assault. Universities should be a place where that fear is not a factor, where women can feel safe and supported. All UK universities are obliged to protect women students from abuse and harassment.

Congress calls on UCU Scotland to work actively with student associations, NUS and other relevant organisations to support their campaign work and reinforce the message that a culture of abuse will not be tolerated in our universities.

UCU Scotland supports the work of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition which is currently pushing universities and FE colleges to improve their policy and practice on abuse of women students.


UCU Scotland Congress notes:

  1. The importance of anti-casualisation work and equality work.
  2. The UCU Congress motion on setting up equality networks
  3. The possibilities for progress on anti-casualisation.

Congress agrees to revive these networks and, in particular, to:

  1. Set up electronic networks of all interested members.
  2. Organise regular meetings and consult with potentially interested members, UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee and regional Equality Networks on the most effective way of doing this.
  3. Encourage the networks to draw up priorities for action.


Conference notes the specific problems that can face postgraduate and post-doctoral students at the start of their career. Unequal power relationships between students and supervisors, lack of independent mentoring, pressure from university management to teach on casualised contracts, and lack of knowledge of mechanisms to have their voice heard, can lead to a situation of isolation for many students in this situation.

Conference believes our union has a responsibility towards postgraduate and post-doctoral students, and asks the Scottish executive to formulate an approach to increasing our work in this area where practical, including the possible production or use of customised materials, and efforts made to help initiate a Scottish postgraduate network.


Congress instructs Executive to respond whenever possible to requests from the Scottish Retired Members' Branch of UCU for assistance in recruiting and in carrying out its activities; it further calls on Executive to help promote an awareness of the existence of a retired members branch among UCUS L.A's and Branch officials, encouraging them to respond to requests for any other assistance deemed appropriate.


Conference asks the Scottish executive committee at its earliest opportunity to investigate the construction of an action plan for growing the membership in Scotland between now and next Scottish conference. Consideration could be made of setting up an ad-hoc group to help officers and officials.

Congress suggests that measures that could be considered might include:

  • The drawing upon of best practice and the production of more customised or locally targeted materials within a Scottish educational context
  • The production of materials better targeted to specific interest groups within our university communities.
  • Better use of the UCU Scotland blog, to highlight local initiatives and activities.


UCU Scotland Congress notes the importance of UCU's environmental and sustainable development work and the interest in setting up a UCU green/sustainable development network in Scotland.

UCU Scotland Congress agrees to set up a Green/Sustainable Development Network. This should include both an electronic network and face to face meetings. The network should draw up priorities for action, including university disinvestment campaigns and greening or introducing sustainable development into the curriculum.


This congress notes:

  • the threat posed by climate change from human-induced emissions of greenhouse gasses, to jobs and quality of life of working people and their families in Scotland and throughout the world;
  • the opportunities for job creation from measures to prevent climate change, as outlined in the 'One Million Climate Jobs' report, to which UCU made a significant contribution;
  • the climate justice policy of the Scottish government, which supports communities affected by climate change in southern Africa;
  • the repeated failure of the Scottish government to achieve its own targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • the failure to date of attempts to tackle climate change globally through the Framework Convention on Climate Change;
  • that attempts to tackle climate change through markets in carbon, and which give increasing power to corporations, are unable to tackle climate change with justice;
  • that a just transition to a low carbon economy involving trades unions is essential for tackling climate change with social justice;
  • that the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP) to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, December 2015 is a crucial opportunity for governments to commit to a programme to combat climate change, create jobs and support social justice;

Therefore, this congress:

  • supports the protests organised for Paris, December 2015 by the climate justice movement, made up of a broad coalition of people's movements, grassroots NGOs, workers' unions;
  • supports the work of Friends of the Earth Scotland in mobilising people from Scotland to participate in these protests;
  • instructs officers, the executive and branch committees to publicise the CoP and associated protests to members and to encourage participation.

UCU Scotland calls on the Scottish Government and Scotland's university sector to actively fund research and development in areas designed to develop low and zero carbon technologies, and to establish centres of excellence for renewable energy and environmental protection.


Congress welcomes the decision of the Scottish government to impose a moratorium on onshore unconventional gas extraction (UGE) following representation of communities, environmentalists, trades unions and sympathetic academics. UGE poses risks to communities from fugitive emissions and seismic activity; to workers from exposure to chemicals and explosion; and to the world's climate through increasing carbon emissions.

This decision goes against the recommendation of the Scottish Government's own 'expert panel' of academics, many of whom have close links with, and material interests in the petrochemical industry. Congress condemns the use in expert panels of academics with vested interests in businesses.


UCU Scotland reiterates our concern over the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the US to agree a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While there may be some economic benefits in reducing trade tariffs and reviewing regulation for certain industrial sectors, UCU Scotland believes that the primary purpose of TTIP is to extend corporate investor rights. The current negotiations also lack transparency and proper democratic oversight.

UCU Scotland remains unconvinced by official claims of job creation arising out of TTIP, and considers that the dangers to public services including education, workers' rights and environmental standards far outweigh any potential benefits.

UCU Scotland congress instructs the executive committee to continue to highlight the dangers presented by TTIP and to work with other trade unions and campaign bodies in defence of public services, worker rights and environmental protections.


Congress welcomes UCU's participation in the delegation of Scottish trades unionists to Bhopal to participate in the 30th anniversary events with the survivors of the gas disaster and the value of such informal delegations of grassroots trade union activists to promoting solidarity in Scotland.

Therefore Congress agrees to establish an International Committee within UCU Scotland to develop specifically Scottish solidarity work, within the rules of UCU.


On the 26th September in Iguala in the state of Guerrero, Mexico Local police shot dead six people after launching a completely unprovoked attack on students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College of nearby Ayotzinapa. As part of the same attack, that day in Iguala the authorities detained 43 students from the same school.

These 43 students remain "disappeared". Despite the discovery of several mass graves in the area and horrific unconfirmed reports that the detained students were burned to death, there has as yet been no definite news of the 43 missing young people. Anger and opposition to this has expressed itself in a multitude of ways including a planned General Strike on the 1st of December. This General strike involved UCU's sister union in "Education International" STUNAM. This branch supports, within UCU policy, the following:

  • We show full solidarity with STUNAM
  • We demand the British state break off all ties to the Mexican state until the criminals have been brought to justice
  • We demand the safe return of the 43 students
  • We commit to raising awareness of atrocity throughout the British labour movement and call for wider solidarity
  • We commit to building solidarity links with the democratic wing of the of Mexican education trade unions - SITUAM, STUNAM and CNTE
  • We will support existing solidarity initiatives.


Congress notes:

  • In February 2009 a raid by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) exposed the existence of a blacklist containing the personal details of 3,213 people, largely construction workers. This blacklist had operated in secret as the 'Consulting Association' from 1993 and had been used by over 40 UK construction companies to deny work to anyone they considered a "troublemaker". Many of these companies have been used by HE and FE institutions throughout the country
  • In many cases workers had been denied work for as long as decades, often simply because they had been involved in a trade union or raised health & safety concerns.
  • The Consulting Association was not an isolated instance of blacklisting in the UK construction industry. Prior to 1993 a similarly organised and well-funded blacklist had been run by the so-called "Economic League"; founded in 1919 under the name "National Propaganda". Following the exposure of its activities in the 1980s, the Economic League was disbanded in 1993. Ian Kerr, an employee of the League's construction arm, the 'Services Group', founded the Consulting Association using material he had 'salvaged' from his former employer. He did this with the financial backing of a number of major construction companies.
  • In November 2013, Ian Kerr, the Director of the Consulting Association, admitted to the Scottish Affairs Committee that he regularly spied on left-wing organisations and reported the content of their literature and meetings back to his subscribing companies. Also targeted were 'green' activists and animal campaigners.
  • Kerr also admitted that shortly after the ICO raid in 2009 he burnt 70%-95% of the records held by the Consulting Association on the instructions of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd. He also destroyed a hard drive containing further evidence.
  • Investigations into the Consulting Association have uncovered evidence for the involvement of police officers and security services in the maintenance of the blacklist.
  • Many blacklisted workers have reported that they are still unable to gain employment on construction projects run by blacklisting companies.

Congress believes:

  • The blacklisting of workers is abhorrent. Not only has it deprived individuals of their livelihoods but it has also used this as a tool to drive down working conditions and safety standards for the rest of the workforce.
  • That the companies which helped to found the Consulting Association did so in secret, immediately following the collapse of the Economic League, shows not only a sickening contempt for the workers whose livelihoods were destroyed by this blacklist, but also that the they would be prepared to do it again and have no reservations or scruples when it comes to protecting their profits, whatever the human cost.
  • As yet, no effective inquiry has been put into place to investigate the full extent of blacklisting in the construction industry and the level of collusion between this illegal enterprise and the UK authorities.
  • It is inconceivable that successive UK governments could not have been aware of the existence of blacklisting and the fact that the current government has refused to hold a full inquiry into the level of state involvement in blacklisting clearly shows its own guilt.
  • Despite the ICO raid in 2009, it is very likely that the practice of blacklisting continues to this day.
  • The blacklisting of trade unionists and politically active workers is an integral part not only of the UK construction industry but also of British capitalism as a whole.
  • The bosses' state will not lift a finger against its big business backers. Only the workers themselves, united with the support of students, can force the bosses to reveal their dirty secrets and bring their rotten system to an end.

Congress resolves:

  • To issue a statement condemning the blacklisting of workers by construction companies.
  • To give full support to the call from the TUC for a full 'Leveson-style' inquiry into blacklisting in the UK.
  • To call on Scottish universities to include in their procurement policy provisions to the effect that no company which is known to have participated in blacklisting and has not compensated blacklisted workers will be able to tender for any contracts on university owned land in Scotland.

List of construction companies in the Consulting Association:

1. Amec Building Ltd

2. Amec Construction Ltd

3. Amec Facilities Ltd

4. Amec Ind Div

5. Amec Process & Energy Ltd

6. Amey Construction

7. B Sunley & Sons

8. Balfour Beatty

9. Balfour Kilpatrick Ballast

10. Wiltshier Plc

11. Bam Construction (HBC Construction)

12. Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nuttall Ltd)

13. C B & I

14. Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd

15. Costain UK Ltd

16. Crown House Technologies (Carillion/Tarmac Construction)

17. Diamond M & E Services

18. Dudley Bower & Co Ltd

19. Emcor (Drake & Scull)

20. Emcor Rail

21. G Wimpey Ltd

22. Haden Young

23. Kier Ltd

24. John Mowlem Ltd

25. Laing O'Rourke (John Laing) Ltd

26. Lovell Construction Ltd

27. Miller Construction Limited

28. Morgan Ashurst

29. Morgan Est

30. Morrison Construction

31. N G Bailey

32. Shepherd Engineering Services

33. Sias Building Services

34. Sir Robert McAlpine

35. Skanska (Kvaerner/Trafalgar House)

36. SPIE (Matthew Hall)

37. Taylor Woodrow

38. Turriff Construction

39. Tysons Contractors

40. Walter Llewellyn & Sons

41. Whessoe Oil & Gas

42. Willmott Dixon

43. Vinci plc (Norwest Holst Group)


Congress notes that by our nature, educational unions should be intrinsically opposed to the production and use of nuclear weapons. UCUS Congress condemns the £100-130 billion (and increasing) costs of replacement of the trident submarine system, with £4.2 billion to be spent before the decision for replacement is even made, particularly at a time when funding cuts are being made in important public services and education is underfunded. Congress deplores the risk to the population of nuclear weapons convoys moving warheads between Burghfield and Faslane.

UCUS Congress agrees that UCUS should:

  1. Affiliate to SCND (£100)
  2. Support the Scrap trident demonstration on 4 April in Glasgow, including through publicity to members, sending the banner and organising a bloc of UCU members at the demo.
  3. Support other anti-nuclear events organised by SCND or coalitions such as Scrap Trident and the Scottish Peace Network.
  4. Encourage members to join SCND and take part in its activities.
  5. Encourage campaigns of divestment in university research that leads to or encourages the production of weapons of mass destruction, or contributes in any way to the arms trade.


UCU Scotland recognises the unique role played by the Scottish Trades Unions Congress. The balanced contributions produced prior to the 2014 independence referendum, titled "A Just Scotland", will continue to inform debate on a civic society built on social justice, cohesion, democracy and equality. Congress in particular acknowledges the support in "A Just Scotland" for a post-16 education system that remains free at the point of entry for Scottish domiciled students. Congress supports the STUC view that the funding of post-16 education should be undertaken in a holistic manner, and rejects any attempts to play the interests of the FE sector against those of the HE sector.

Further campaigns, such as against zero hours contracts, anti-racism and TTIP highlight the continued work of the STUC in protecting workers rights and defending wider civic interests.

Last updated: 25 March 2019