UNISON higher education workers today vowed to step up the campaign around the Trade Union Bill and to work to defend trade union rights and UNISON reps.
The union’s higher education conference in Southport called on members to lobby MPs and members of the House of Lords – such as university chancellors – alongside Welsh AMs and Scottish MSPs, and employers.
In particular, conference called for a campaign in the sector that would seek agreements with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association not to use agency staff if there are strikes, to protect union reps from victimisation and give workers greater rights to union representation.
With news that the sector will be included in the bill’s attack on trade union facility time, Paul Whitehouse of the union’s LSE branch reminded delegates: “Before anything else, you need reps with time to sit in meetings with management. That’s where it all starts.”
Recognising that unions are “the largest democratic movement in the country”, delegates vowed to go out and talk to members – and non members – about the threats of the Trade Union Bill, the positive things unions do and the importance of being in one.
The contribution unions make to the wider society was highlighted when conference opened with two motions on students’ rights.
These committed UNISON to campaigning against student fees, and working with student unions and others – including UNISON’s Labour Link political fund – on voter registration drives to make sure students don’t lose their voice.
Conference heard details of a successful registration drive in Leeds, under the slogan ‘Give an X’.
The branch and university worked with the council and the student unions of the city’s other university and colleges in a two-week campaign targeted at students.
And it succeeded: by the end of the campaign, there had been a 10% increase in voters.