Following the announcement of the UCU Levy, I wrote [this statement] noting my view as President that a special meeting of the NEC was needed to re-examine the levy and to identify steps to mitigate it and pursue all avenues to at least approximate a greater degree of progressiveness than was believed possible in February. I believe that decision-making about issues such as these warrant as much transparency as possible and that this is key to ensuring there is trust between members and our representative bodies and structures. Minutes of NEC meetings are made available to members following meetings. This is key to our accountability as a body and as a union.  

Members will have received recent emails from the General Secretary noting that updated advice had been secured and communicated to the UK officer team1 which might allow UCU to mitigate the levy for lower paid members, depending upon the success of further fundraising efforts. Members may have seen further updates noting how generous members and retired members have been in their individual capacities [eg this in the first few days: link], and that several branches have donated or are in the process of committing to donate proportions of their local reserves to the fund. This is an incredible show of solidarity for those on lower salaries, and it is also an important and visible show of support for UCU remaining a fighting union ready to defend members’ jobs and conditions. The more money that we raise, the better our chances of mitigating the levy for more members. 

During the summer months, there are no ordinary, scheduled NEC meetings. At the most recent NEC meeting (19 June 2020) the NEC agreed (as is usual for summertime) to delegate authority to the UK officers. That is why the updated advice which may allow UCU to mitigate the levy was issued to the Officers. However, certain questions remain, including those which have been raised since UCU held a branch officers’ webinar and an online meeting with Treasurers from some branches. These questions include whether UCU’s Rules [link] would allow for a transfer of some of our centrally held reserves into the Fighting Fund (in addition to the reserves from which various branches are donating). The Rules stipulate that interpretation of the Rules is the responsibility of the NEC. 

In my view, questions regarding the interpretation of rules connecting to the potential use (or not) of union reserves are important enough to warrant the calling of a special, minuted NEC to examine them. As I noted on Tuesday, I have formally communicated my request that an NEC meeting be called, soon. NEC standing orders provide a number of ways to call special meetings, including via a presidential decision following consultation with the General Secretary (2.1.a).2 The General Secretary has written to NEC members to ask for views regarding a special meeting and about dates of availability.

Notes:

1. The UCU UK Officer team comprises: the President, President Elect, Vice President, Immediate Past President, and Treasurer. The delayed election for the Vice President is currently open, with the Interim HEC Chair attending UK Officer meetings as an observer in the meantime.

2. The NEC standing orders don’t seem to currently be available via the UCU website. The relevant standing order is quoted below from the most recent version circulated to NEC members (version last amended by NEC 29 November 2019; ref. NEC/1301)

  1. Convening of meetings
    2.1. The Committee shall approve scheduled cycles of meetings for the Committee
    and its sub-committees. In addition, special meetings of the Committee may be
    convened by:
    a) a decision of the President in consultation with the General Secretary, or
    b) a resolution of a meeting of the Committee, or
    c) a majority of the members of the committee putting a request to hold a
    meeting in writing or by email to the General Secretary. Such requisitions
    will include a statement of the urgent and timely business which requires
    a meeting to be held. Requisitioned meetings shall be held as soon as
    practicable, and no later than 3 weeks after the requisition is received.
    2.2. The General Secretary will notify members of the Committee of the Committee’s
    meetings, in good time, with not less than 14 days’ notice.
    2.3. The General Secretary will notify members of the Committee of special
    meetings, with not less than 5 days’ notice save in exceptional circumstances.