IFUT members who attended the Union’s Annual Delegate Conference this month, voted on a number of motions setting the Union policy for the year ahead. Motions to Conference, submitted by several Branches, identify the clear priorities of our members each year.
Coming out of the last two years which were dominated by Covid-19, many delegates who spoke on motions reminded the conference of the need to learn from the changes to work practices while not allowing dangerous precedents to become the norm.
To this end motions on technology assisted learning, lecture recording and remote and flexible working gave IFUT branches and the Union as a whole a mandate to pursue policies which draw on the successes and expertise gained during lockdown. In relation to remote and flexible working, the motion confirmed “wholesale return to workplace practices must not happen without agreement, and appropriate accommodations much include the worker voice”. Similarly a motion proposed by individual members from UCD and UCC asked Conference to “recognise the important role that technology played in ensuring the continuity and learning during the pandemic”, and stated technology, including lecture capture, presents “enormous potential but also opens up serious unintended consequences”. Like other motions passed at the ADC, the members mandated IFUT to engage with stakeholders across the sector to develop a framework for technology assisted learning and lecture recording.
Outside of Covid inspired changes to workplace practices, delegates also debated motions on the funding of Higher Education. A motion from UCD called on IFUT to “continue to stridently lobby for increased funding of the sector and to ensure that this funding is directed to the frontline in the delivery of teaching and research in our HEIs”. Similarly a motion from UCC on the public funding of universities said that there needs to be “sufficient public funding to maintain academic standards and uphold the principles of accessibility and affordability for all; as well as structures of governance that respect the role of HEIs as autonomous public bodies, with broad representation that includes academic staff”. The representation of academic staff was also a central issue debated in relation to the motion on the HEA Bill 2022.
There were a number of motions addressing the issue of precarious employment, including a motion proposed by UCC calling on “government and the HEIs to take urgent measures to reduce the reliance on short-term and precariously employed staff and to extend the benefits of full-time permanent status to all academic staff”. Delegates voted to support the foundation and work of IFUT’s Precarious Employment Campaign Steering Group and endorsed a motion calling for precarity to be addressed by IFUT as a priority.
ADC also voted on motions of solidarity including a motion on universities as sanctuaries, a motion calling for the same leave provisions for parents who have children by surrogacy as to those provided to parents under the Adoptive Leave Scheme and an emergency motion in support of our colleagues across Britain and Northern Ireland who, as members of the UCU, will engage in forms of industrial action this year. There was also a motion calling on IFUT to use World Mental Health Day 2022 (10/10/22) as an opportunity to promote work-life balance and positive mental health among our members.
Thanks to the efforts of IFUT during this last year, our General Secretary, Frank Jones, now holds a position on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Executive Committee. IFUT were also instrumental in the creation of the ICTU Higher Education Group of Unions, and in demanding the Higher Education Sector Oversight Group was established, including a seat for IFUT. Our Union is therefore in a strong position to advance the motions adopted by delegates at our conference.