At our all members general meeting on 29 September we agreed to send a motion to the UCU national executive committee (NEC) on migration.
The union’s NEC met on 25 of October. Brexit, anti-immigrant scapegoating and the normalisation of racism were a major topic of discussion. The NEC condemned the popularisation of racism by the Tory government and their supporters. Some delegates argued too many in the trade union and labour movement are pandering to these ideas by accepting immigration to be a ‘problem’ and ‘controlling numbers’ being the answer.
NEC overwhelmingly passed the motion to make the defence of free movement of labour central to our defence of EU migrants and migrant workers more generally. It was suggested that branches should use this motion to link up with the Campaign for the Free Movement of Labour post Brexit and to mobilise for the one-day strike called by the ‘A day without us’ campaign.
Motions supporting the Stand Up to Racism trade union conference on 4 February and demonstration on 18 March were also passed. Both are also supported by the TUC.
Full text of the motion from our local association reads:
(Several branches submitted similar motions on this issue; this is the motion submitted by us, the wording of the motion passed by the NEC may vary from this.)
The UCU local association notes that existing UCU policy on migration and labour markets recognises the social, cultural and economic value of migration and opposes all forms of racism and the Points-Based Immigration Scheme. By approving motion 5 at the last congress 2016, UCU has asserted its commitment to “campaign with other trade unions, NUS and community groups for the overthrow of restrictive legislation which affects international students and staff and no change in the immigration status of EU residents if UK leaves EU (point 7: “Treatment of international staff and students at the last UCU congress”). This policy, however, does not explicitly refer to a commitment to defend the free movement of labour, including for all workers in higher education.
The UCU local association further notes that the existing free movement of labour within the European Economic Area (EEA) is seriously threatened by the EU referendum vote to leave. If this is ended, EEA staff will be drawn under the Points-Based Immigration Scheme, meaning that they will be subject to the same continual visa restrictions, employer-sponsorship arrangements, and monitoring mechanisms that our international colleagues already face. Similar barriers will likely be placed on UK nationals living in or moving to the EEA.
The UCU local association believes that the end of freedom of movement of labour would represent a significant worsening of the condition of present and future EEA staff in the UK. Any restrictions on freedom of movement of labour, and our right to work without discrimination based on nationality, will put increasing competitive pressure on EEA staff, and thus affect staff as a whole and weaken our union. It will also have a detrimental effect on the educational experience and academic life, which are critically enriched by the intellectual and cultural contribution made by the international staff and students.
The UCU local association] therefore agrees that, while continuing to campaign against the Points-Based Immigration Scheme, we must defend existing free movement arrangements, both within and without the EEA.
The UCU local association resolves urgently to:
- campaign for free movement of labour and opposition to the Points-Based Immigration Scheme
- campaign for an up-front guarantee for existing EU/EEA citizens in the UK to stay
- campaign for protection for EU research funding and EU students
- campaign for full recognition of workers’ rights throughout EU withdrawal negotiations, including for non-academic staff
- promote planned solidarity activity with non-EU colleagues at campus level to demand improvement of immigration support for all non-UK staff
The local association further resolves to lobby our Vice Chancellor to commit publicly to and do whatever possible to:
- Permanently guarantee that for the indefinite future there will be no change in the employment or student status of any current EU/EEA Member State and Candidate Country staff and students arising from any change introduced as a consequence of the Brexit negotiations.
- Permanently guarantee that for the indefinite future this university/college will not implement any changes in the academic qualification, residential or fee conditions concerning students applying from EU member states and Norway or Switzerland, whatever the results of the Brexit negotiations.
- Campaign as a major European country to maintain free movement of labour and people across all 28 current EU Member States.
- Meet with the UCU, UNISON and other trade unions within the university/college to discuss the most effective ways of jointly campaigning for the right to remain for all EU workers and students living in the UK and to maintain Freedom of Movement of Labour across the current 28 EU Member States.
The UCU local association also resolves
- to publicise the fact that this motion has been passed and encourage other UCU branches to do likewise
- to submit this motion, when passed, to the National Executive Committee of UCU
- to liaise with other branches regarding submitting a version of this motion to UCU Congress 2017
Submitted by the committee, moved by Gabriella Alberti, text is as amended by the general meeting. The motion was passed with no votes against by the University of Leeds local association all-members general meeting on 29 September 2016.