UCU and STUC statements on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill

Following the passage of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in the Scottish Parliament in December 2022, the UK government announced on 16 January 2023 their intention to utilise powers in the Scotland Act to block the bill from receiving royal assent. UCU and other trade unions along with the STUC have released statements supportive of the bill and opposing the UK government’s decision. The statements are listed here.

You can find UCU’s statement on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill here.

The STUC also signed up to the statement collated on behalf of Scottish civic organisations by Rape Crisis Scotland. You can see the statement here.

UCU’s LGBTQ members’ standing committee also passed a motion on the bill and the UK governments decision to block it stating that the committee notes that the: 

• Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would remove barriers for people to legally change their gender by allowing for self-identification 

• This bill was passed overwhelmingly, by 86 to 36, with support from the Scottish Greens, Labour and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, as well as some Conservative MSPs

 • This bill is now being prevented from proceeding to Royal Assent by the British Government, by using (for the first time) section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998. 

And that the committee believes: 

• People should be supported through transition and self-identification (regardless of transition) is an important part of this 

• Transphobia cannot go unchallenged, and UCU as part of the broader Trade Union Movement has a responsibility to challenge it

• UCU has responsibility to its trans and nonbinary members to respond strongly to attacks on their rights

 • In affirming the right to safety and livelihood for trans and non-binary individuals and workers who have moved to Scotland to flee oppression and persecution 

• In democratic decision making, which is here threatened by Westminster’s overriding of Scottish Parliament. 

Resolves: 

• To strengthen solidarity with trans and nonbinary members

 • To encourage branches and members to engage with UCU’s LGBT+ Charter actions

• To call on UCU to make national-level representations to persuade the UK government to recognise and respect the democratic authority of the Scottish Parliament’

Report from the 2022 STUC Black Workers’ conference

Report of the 2022 STUC Black Workers’ conference written by UCU delegate Talat Ahmed.

The 26th Annual STUC Black Workers’ Conference was held over the weekend of Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 October 2022. This was a physical event and marked a welcome return to the Golden Jubilee Hotel in Clydebank for delegates to meet and discuss in-person. Over 60 delegates, representing 15 Trade Unions were elected by their unions to attend the Conference, with 50 delegates registered and in attendance. Our theme this year was “We demand Change” and on the 125th anniversary of the STUC, with a Tory cost of living crisis not witnessed since the war, this slogan is apt. Like Covid-19, the cost of living crisis and attacks on our pay and conditions disproportionately impact black workers and communities. This message was reinforced by STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer, who criticised the Tory government for using racism to seek to divide working class people and called for us to stand together to resist this generalised attack upon our living standards. 

Sessions on tackling racism in society included motions on sport and racism, particularly the exposure of institutionalised racism in Scottish cricket, but reflected concerns more widely on race and sport. Issues relating to racism in schools, bullying, mental health and the music industry were highlighted in several motions. The scapegoating of vulnerable groups was showcased in motions on the importance of trade unionists campaigning to defend Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities and tackling Islamophobia. The motion on the need for anti-racist training was contentious over the issue of mandatory training. The compulsory aspect passed overwhelmingly but did provide an opportunity for considered reflection by delegates on this topic and more broadly on strategies in workplaces for dealing with racism. Conference passed a motion on slavery, colonialism and reparations with a view to securing a statement of intent from the STUC on the necessity for reparations for past injustices of slavery, colonialism and empire.   

Last year marked the silver jubilee of the STUC Black Workers’ Committee and STUC Black Workers’ Conference. As part of this commemoration, Satnam Ner, former STUC President and Black Worker’s Committee member, hosted a slideshow highlighting 25 years of STUC Black Worker’s Committee, showcasing its activities, particularly the annual St Andrews Day Anti-Racism March and Rally. 

One of the more poignant moments of conference was the screening of the film ‘A Portrait of Sheku Bayou’. This heart rendering documentary features commentary by Sheku’s family and friends about his life, so tragically and unjustly cut short. Delegates then listened to Kadi Johnson, Sheku’s sister and their family lawyer, Aamer Anwar. The Inquiry into his death is on-going into 2023 and delegates confirmed their resolve to continue our support for justice for his family. Other speakers included Pinar Aksu, Human Rights Advocacy Co-ordinator on the problems affecting asylum seekers and refugees in the light of draconian measures in the Borders and Nationality Act; Tommy Breslin and Khadija Patel from The Open University in Scotland and Scottish Union Learning on the theme of ‘upskilling and reskilling’ and Mike Arnott, the STUC Vice-President. 

A new Black Workers Committee was elected at conference with Talat Ahmed of UCU being elected co-chair for 2022-23.   

UCU Scotland rally

UCU members in universities across Scotland will be joining 70,000 colleagues across the UK for national strike action on 1 February in the ongoing dispute over pay, working conditions and the USS pension. This will be followed with another 17 days of strike action over February and March unless employers come back to the negotiating table with a serious offer. In the run up to 1 February we thought it was a good time to look back at the largest rally in UCU Scotland’s history held on 30 November last year at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. You can see the recorded livestream of the rally featuring UCU Scotland president Lena Wanggren, MSPs, NUS president Ellie Gomersall, comedian Mark Thomas, Roz Foyer general secretary of the STUC, and Scott Hartles from the CWU.

Delegation report from STUC Women’s conference 2022

From the 30th of October till the 1st of November 2022, UCU Scotland delegates (Ann Gow, Rosie Hampton, Mary Senior, and Lena Wangren) attended the annual STUC Women’s Conference in Glenrothes.

The theme for this year’s conference was “Inspired by our past, building for our future” and the weekend was filled with generative and inspiring conversations around a broad range of topics related to the conference motions. The delegation attended the conference off the back of a historic ballot result for UCU, after the #UCURising campaign.

During the first day’s proceedings, UCU spoke in support of Motion 16, “Sexual Harassment”, which was proposed by Glasgow Trades Council. We highlighted the ever-timely nature of the motion, noting that there is still much work to be done, particularly in sectors like academia where casualisation and precarity is rife. We then celebrated our ballot result, stating that our strong ballot result gave us the mandate to tackle issues of casualisation, and sexual harassment head on. Subsequently, the motion passed unanimously.

During the lunchtime fringe event by Unions into Schools, delegate Rosie Hampton joined a panel with other young women as vice-chair of the STUC Youth Committee. The panel discussed how political and industrial issues for women are involving and thought about how we should tackle these problems going forward. This prompted an engaging discussion, with school pupils, youth parliament members and other young women reflecting on who had inspired them from the past, to act in the present.

On the second day of the conference, UCU Scotland delegates attended a workshop hosted by Gender Equalities at Work, a collaborative project working to produce the first comprehensive history of the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975. We spoke with other delegates, considering how things have changed, or not changed, since the introduction of these two crucial pieces of legislation. We also discussed how to move these issues through the structures of the trade union movement, and what potential gendered barriers we might face there.

In the afternoon session, UCU Scotland moved Motion 14, “Buffer Zones.” This formed part of a group debate, with several motions on themes related to reproductive justice, demonstrating the strength of feeling at conference on these issues. We discussed the increase in anti-abortion protestors setting up outside key clinics in Glasgow and beyond, and how urgent action was needed to introduce buffer zones in Scotland. We heard from many speakers in the group debate, who gave powerful and emotional supporting speeches. The motion passed unanimously.

Overall, the conference was a great experience, both for previous and first-time delegates. After some members of the UCU Scotland delegation had attended the STUC Women’s Weekend in the summer, it was wonderful to arrive in Glenrothes to move motions in such a supportive and encouraging environment. We look forward to next year’s conference already!

UCU Scotland elections in 2022-23: call for nominations

Nominations  are sought for the positions of vice-president, honorary treasurer and equality officer of UCU Scotland, and three ordinary members of the UCU Scotland executive committee (at least one of whom shall be a Black member). All positions are for a term of two years and begin at the close of UCU’s annual Congress on 29 May 2023. The deadline for the receipt of nominations is 17:00 on Friday 11 November 2022. 

More information, including a nomination form can be found on the UCU website below:

https://www.ucu.org.uk/ucuscotland-elections

UCU young member Rosie Hampton joins the First Minister to open the STUC Margaret Irwin centre – Scotland’s new trade union building

UCU young member Rosie Hampton – post-graduate researcher rep at UCU Glasgow branch – joined the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, STUC president Pauline Rourke and STUC general secretary Roz Foyer to officially open the new STUC Margaret Irwin Centre, in Glasgow on Tuesday 7 June 2022.

Named after the STUC’s first secretary, Margaret Irwin was instrumental in establishing the STUC in 1897 and held the position of Secretary to the General Council until 1900.

The new premises, located in the heart of Bridgeton, is part of the wider regeneration programme within the Clyde Gateway area. In its 125th year, the new centre provides the STUC and Scotland’s wider trade union movement with a national hub for trade union engagement and excellence, supporting workers throughout the country.  

Rosie was chosen from among young members nominated by STUC affiliates to join the First Minister at the opening event, where she spoke about her own experiences as a casualised worker, and the importance of connections to the broader trade union movement.

UCU Scotland organising award 2022

The award is presented annually at our Scotland Congress to the rep or group of reps who have undertaken significant organising work, or made a positive impact in organising in their branch or institution.  The award provides important recognition to organising work.

This year the UCU Scotland Officers have decided that it should be a collective award, to be made to all branches in recognition of the challenging organising work that all branches have undertaken throughout the pandemic.  In particular, we’re noting the important GTVO work done in the USS and Four Fights ballots and re-ballots, and the amazing organising work done around the industrial action and picket lines.    Branches throughout Scotland have worked tirelessly to organise in a pandemic.  Our newest UCU branch – UCU Edinburgh Napier received the award on behalf of all branches.

STUC congress 2022

STUC congress took place in Aberdeen between Monday 25 and Wednesday 27 April.  UCU’s delegation was Lena Wånggren, Jeanette Findlay, Ann Swinney, Vicky Blake, Douglas Chalmers, Vivek Santayana, Grant Buttars, Sarah Liu, Lesley McIntosh, Suzanne Hagan, Eurig Scandrett, Mary Senior, and Murdo Mathison.   

The congress was the first to be held in person after two years being held online.  We were pleased to be able to meet again in person, however the UCU delegation made important representations to the STUC on Covid safety during the event.  

UCU submitted three motions.  One on Afghanistan; one on Covid and health and safety which was amended by NASUWT and then included in a composite; and one on eradicating sexual violence.  The text of the motions copied below*.  We also submitted three amendments on ‘sustainability’ calling for greening of the curriculum, on ‘the right to disconnect’ about spiralling workloads in higher education, and on funding in ‘Covid and education recovery’.   

Both the Afghanistan and eradicating sexual violence motions were passed by congress, as was composite L (Health and safety and the pandemic) which included our text.  All the motions or composites that we had amended were also passed. 

Jeanette Findlay moved our Afghanistan motion.  Vivek Santayana moved composite L; and Sarah Liu moved our motion on eradicating sexual violence.   

Other speakers gave supporting speeches to motions or composites which we were involved in.  Douglas Chalmers spoke in the debate on the sustainability motion we had amended.  Grant Buttars spoke supporting the motion which included our amendment on increasing workloads; and Vivek Santayana spoke in support of the Covid and education recovery motion’ that we amended.   

Vivek Santayana also spoke in debates on other motions including on mental health at work and Indian farmers.  Lesley McIntosh spoke in the debate on a motion on the Scottish teachers’ pension scheme against additional costs for members of the scheme.  Ann Swinney spoke against a motion on safeguarding and single sex provision which was also opposed by the STUC general council.  The motion was defeated.  UCU also planned to oppose a motion calling for an increase in nuclear power production in Scotland.  In the end the motion was withdrawn by Prospect prior to the debate.  All other motions were agreed by the congress.   

Mary Senior seconded an emergency motion on Sheku Bayoh, which was submitted by the STUC Black Workers’ Conference delegation, it was carried. 

The wording of all motions is available at the link below: 

https://stuc.org.uk/stuc-congress/congress-documents

Mary Senior was re-elected onto the STUC general council and as STUC treasurer. 

*UCU motions: 

Afghanistan 

Congress expresses its deep concerns at the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.   The people of Afghanistan are enduring extreme poverty, deprivation and oppression, as a result of the withdrawal of US and western forces, and the control of the Taliban.    

Afghan women and girls are at particular risk of persecution, abuse and violence along with LGBT+ people, certain ethnic minority groups, trade unionists and pro-democracy campaigners, and those who have assisted British operations within the country.  

Congress notes that the UK government’s Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme is failing to prioritise the most vulnerable, with reports indicating that some of the first people resettled were those already living in the UK.  

Congress believes that the UK government, as an architect of the 20-year conflict that has led to the current crisis, has specific responsibility to the Afghan people.    

Congress calls on the STUC to pressurise the Scottish and UK governments to:  

·         Work with international partners to open up safe, legal routes for refugees from Afghanistan to come to Scotland and the UK and ensure that the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme functions effectively and prioritises those in most need rather than the easiest to reach;      

·         Provide routes for family reunion and permanent settlement for Afghan nationals who are currently working and studying in the UK;  

·         And for the UK government to both reverse cuts to UK research and innovation official development assistance and restore foreign aid spending to 0.7% of GNI, as these have a crucial role in supporting wider humanitarian work within Afghanistan and the region   

Congress is also concerned about the impact of Taliban rule on access to education and human rights generally. Congress believes that protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls to access education is a global priority and should be a central focus for the UK’s foreign policy and aid spending.     

Eradicating sexual violence 

Gender-based violence remains endemic in the UK, including in post-16 education. This is despite many years campaigning by sexual violence survivors, prevention groups, trade unions and student unions.  

As noted in the 2021 UCU sexual violence task group report, which surveyed nearly 4,000 university and college staff, in the past five years 1 in 10 university and college staff have directly experienced workplace sexual violence, and a quarter of staff know colleagues who have experienced this. 

Congress notes that in post-16 education: 

  • 12% of women and 5% of men had directly experienced workplace sexual violence 
  • 52% of those who directly experienced sexual violence did not disclose or report it to their employer 
  • 70% experienced sexual violence as an ongoing pattern of behaviour rather than a one-off incident 
  • insecurely employed workers were 1.3 times as likely to experience direct sexual violence than those permanently employed  
  • workers on insecure contracts, disabled workers, LBGTQ workers, and racialised minority workers, are all at significantly greater risk of sexual violence. 

Congress asks STUC to: 

  • pressure Scottish government and employers to work together with trade unions and sexual violence prevention workers to address gender-based violence, including by creating and enforcing gender-based violence policies, integrating this into their health and safety processes, allocating resources to prevention and counselling, and replacing the use of non-disclosure agreements with more transparent procedures;  
  • pressure government and employers to provide decent, secure jobs, given that casualisation and structural inequalities exacerbate sexual violence and other workplace harms. 

Composite L (Health and Safety and the Pandemic)   

 That this Congress believes that workers have shown extraordinary adaptability in carrying out their work during the pandemic and associated lockdowns; their flexibility and dynamism in adapting their work to suit government regulations, pupil/patient/client needs, and employers’ requirements.  Workers have shown extraordinary adaptability in carrying out their work during the pandemic and associated lockdowns; their flexibility and dynamism in adapting their work to suit government regulations, pupil/patient/client needs, and employers’ requirements.     

Congress acknowledges that the pandemic and associated lockdowns have impacted significantly on workers, with a massive death toll and workplaces impacted, and communities divided and split by the chaos we have been placed within.   

Work changes, increased workloads, more dangerous conditions and the sacrifices made by workers are stressors that have had an adverse impact on their wellbeing. Many workers are simply exhausted; some show signs of post-traumatic stress.     

Congress is deeply concerned, therefore, about workers’ mental health and wellbeing.    

Congress notes that Covid-19, an airborne disease, has been able to spread through workplaces, homes, education and care settings, due, in part, to inadequate ventilation in indoor spaces.  Early in the pandemic it became apparent that outdoor activity was safer than that in confined spaces, yet we are still struggling to get adequate ventilation levels in workplaces, and in education settings.   Congress is clear that improving ventilation in workplaces, commercial settings, education establishments and in our homes, will bring additional benefits.     

Congress notes the weakness of Scottish Government guidance on Covid-19 for universities which simply asks employers to ‘consider’ implementing ventilation guidance; ‘consider’ the use of CO2 monitors; and ‘give consideration’ to how rooms are utilised to minimise the spread of Covid.     

Congress believes that the key to keeping workplaces safe is a strong network of trade union health and safety reps and employers who are prepared to go beyond consultation and instead look for agreement on health and safety measures with trade union reps.     

Post-pandemic workforce support programmes must be developed in conjunction with the recognised trade unions; should include a sharp equality focus; and should consider workers’ mental health and the need for the appointment of additional staff to reduce workload as Congress fundamentally believes that employers need to safeguard workers’ health and wellbeing by addressing workload.    

Congress further asserts that both the UK Government and the Scottish Government need to improve workers’ rights in the post-pandemic workplace and continues to call for employment law to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.    

Congress calls on the STUC General Council to:     

  • campaign for improved flexible working, paid and unpaid leave, sabbaticals; winding down arrangements for older workers and meaningful retraining for the many workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic through no fault of their own.    
  • call on Scottish Government to ensure guidance is more prescriptive in calling for employers to introduce agreed ventilation standards.  Those standards should be agreed between employers and trade unions.  
  • call on the Scottish Government to require the introduction of monitoring equipment such as CO2 monitors, and provide the requisite funding; and where appropriate, equipment to improve air quality such as air filtration devices’’   
  • campaign for employers to go beyond legal minimums in consultation on health and safety measures.    
  • to challenge any attempts by the Scottish Government and Local Councils to allow workplaces to act in direct contradiction of workers safety.    
  • to support the unions directly affected by this problem, to give them the support to be able to defend their members.’’  

UCU Scotland strike rallies: Glasgow 14 February & Edinburgh 22 February

As part of the action around the 10 days of strike action in February and March over the USS pension, pay and working conditions, UCU Scotland are organising two strike rallies:

1 – USS Strike Rally – assemble 11.45am, rally 12noon Monday 14 February 2022 Buchanan Street steps, Glasgow.

Join UCU Scotland members at the Donald Dewar statue, Buchanan Street steps on Monday 14 February in our USS strike rally.   Assemble from 11.45am, rally starts 12noon.  Speakers include UCU General Secretary Jo Grady, speakers from striking branches, UCU Scotland president Lena Wanggren, NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly, Glasgow University VP Education Mia Clarke (speaking in a personal capacity), and Dave Moxham STUC deputy general secretary.

2 – Joint UCU/NUS “Rally for Education” Scottish Parliament – assemble 12.30pm, rally 1pm Tuesday 22 Feb 2022

UCU Scotland and NUS members will rally together for education at Holyrood on Tuesday 22 February.  Key messages are on ending student poverty, and valuing staff in the USS pension and four fights disputes.  Support the strikes, support the demo. Speakers invited include UCU president Vicky Blake, NUS Scotland president Matt Crilly, MSP education spokespeople, UCU Scotland president Lena Wanggren, STUC general secretary Roz Foyer, and student speakers.

You can follow the rally live on our livestream here.

UCU Scotland education committee

UCU Scotland’s Education Committee – appeal for members

UCU Scotland’s education committee meets throughout the year to consider higher education policy issues and other areas important to the union.  In the past year committee members produced the union’s ‘future of Scottish higher education’ paper setting out an alternative vision for the sector.  Members have also helped to produce the union’s submissions to government and parliamentary consultations and helped arrange the policy conferences held in recent years, including most recently in September 2021.  The current members have been on since 2019 and now, with a number of vacancies, branches are asked to nominate members to the committee.  Existing members of the committee are welcome to be re-nominated.  If you’re interested in being on the committee you should contact your branch and ask them to nominate you by emailing UCU Scotland on scotland(at)ucu.org.uk.  Please also email if you want to find out more information on the role first, or to arrange a conversation with the current chair of the committee, Jeanette Findlay.  The committee will meet once more before the summer on 13 April and then on dates to be confirmed during academic year 2022/23.