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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 June 2010

UCU young members' conference

The University and College Union's first Young Members' Conference was held on 15 May. Around 30 delegates attended, from both further and higher education institutions and those practising in industrial settings.

James Naish

The event provided a good opportunity for delegates to experience - possibly for the first time - the operation of the union at a national level, as well as providing a chance to network with other young activists.

But the conference lacked clear objectives, and the range of broad discussions failed to deliver on substantial plans of action. Socialist Party members proposed concrete steps to tackle the challenges facing further and higher education - including a national demonstration on the day of the emergency budget and efforts to build alliances with the student community and the broader trade union movement.

An informal network of young activists was established with responsibility for co-ordinating the recruitment of young members, as well as for pushing for a democratic discussion over the structure of a young members' committee.

The UCU faces a number of challenges in recruiting young workers. They are vulnerable because they're usually at the start of their careers and therefore are more likely to be pressurised by their bosses, compared to their senior colleagues. Furthermore, young workers, especially if they're on casualised contracts, may fear victimisation if they either join or get active with the union.

Therefore, a national Young Members' Committee is essential to ensure that the issues young workers in academia and education face are addressed, and to build the next generation of union activists.

Striking at UAL

On 27 May UAL (University of the Arts London) took strike action across six colleges and up to 100 lecturers and students rallied outside Central St Martin's Art College in protest at job cuts. This is the fifteenth UCU branch in London to take strike action since March.

68% of the UCU members at UAL voted in favour of strike action to save the jobs threatened through course closures and 'restructuring'. At the rally staff were joined by students and campaigners against the closure of the college's nursery.

Colleges and universities across the country are facing massive cuts. With the announcement of further cuts of 200 million from university spending and 340 million in cuts in further education it is clear that national action uniting workers and students around an anti-cuts programme is needed to fight these attacks.

Suzanne Beishon

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