Global judgements and ideas.
You can see below an open letter to the new elected UCU President, Rob Goodfellow, concerning the uncertain status of EU staff after the referendum and the threats to free movement of people. We invite UCU members to sign this letter and to start debating these issues in their local branches. If you support the letter, please circulate it and send the names of signatories, email addresses and affiliations to Lucia Pradella (lucia.pradella at kcl.ac.uk) and/or me (pvm.doc at gmail.com) by July 15.
Dear Rob Goodfellow,
We are contacting you as our new elected UCU president for 2016/17. We are concerned that the UCU has yet properly to respond to the concerns of academic staff from the EU working in the UK.
EU staff make up 15 per cent of the academic workforce in this country. After the referendum, their legal status is uncertain and the free movement of labour is seriously threatened.
The right to remain of EU citizens currently living in the UK has been put into question. Although the House of Commons voted on 06/07/16 to guarantee their right to remain, this vote is non-binding. In early July, UCU called on the government and all Conservative party leadership candidates to make a firm commitment that all EU nationals already in the country can stay. At the end of June, Sally Hunt wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, on behalf of UCU members, asking that the government ensures “that the best and brightest staff and students from across the EU will continue to be supported to work and study in the UK”.
Academic staff are facing growing pressure to increase productivity and students’ satisfaction through audit mechanisms such as the REF and TEF, while our pay and conditions are worsening. We cannot rule out that audit mechanisms will be applied to establishing who the “brightest and best” EU staff are, and thus who has and who does not have the right to remain.
We also note that the UCU has not taken a position on free movement of labour. The end of free movement would represent a significant worsening of the condition of present and future EU staff. Any restrictions on freedom of movement for people, and our right to work without discrimination based on nationality, will put increasing competitive pressure on EU academic staff and thus affect staff as a whole, and weaken the strength of our union.
While we hope that this was just an unwise choice of words on Sally Hunt’s part, we ask you to speak out clearly against any form of staff discrimination, including linking the right to remain in the UK to presumed merit. We also ask the UCU Executive to take a firm stand in favour of free movement of labour and to campaign not just to guarantee the existing rights of EU academic staff but also the continuing right of free movement for all EU academics and indeed, for all workers. We therefore invite local branches to start debating how to achieve this goal. Please email Lucia Pradella lucia.pradella at kcl.ac.uk and/or Phoebe Moore pvm.doc at gmail.com with your name, email and affiliation if you would like to sign this open letter.