Sunday, 22 March 2015

Audacity and the Power of Union Education


I've just finished an exhausting, but hugely rewarding weekend's teaching on the MA in international labour and trade union studies (ILTUS) at Ruskin.

A huge thanks to all who contributed. On Friday this was:

Sue Ledwith (creator of the MA and now Ruskin emeritus fellow) on the gender pay gap and its relationship with union leadership

Stephen Mustchin (Univ Manchester Business School) on international regulation and collective bargaining

A joint guest speaker session with

Becca Kirkpatrick (Citizens UK - Personal capacity) on a perspective of how/whether trade unions are achieve renewal through community unionism

Jane Holgate (Leeds Univ - via video interview) on the background to community unionism and whether this is a route to trade union renewal.

On Saturday this was:

Jo Cain (Head of LAOS, UNISON - Personal capacity) on culture, organisation and union leadership.

Jack Cao (Keele Univ) On workers' resistance in China.

The keynote event was Saturday night and the presentation by Ethel Buckley (Head of Campaigns at SIPTU) on the 2014 Greyhound lockout and the union's strategy to win.

Although I must thank all colleagues who contributed (and of course Fenella Porter who shares running the MA with me) over the weekend, the student feedback confirmed that it was Ethel's session which, as a form of praxis, brought the entire weekend's teaching session together.

Many thanks to Roger McKenzie (AGS UNISON) for getting off the ground the idea of an activist in residence and for Ethel to agree to spend 18-22 March in the UK spending time with UNISON branches in Oxon and at Ruskin.

Her presentation to the MA students on Saturday night about the strategy developed by SIPTU to overcome the workplace lockout at Greyhound refuse in Dublin in 2014 was an exemplar of how trades union can still beat overtly hostile employers in a legally and economically hostile climate.

A key theme of Ethel's was the need for trade unions to be as audacious as employers, and this was exemplified in how SIPTU worked closely with those communities affected by the lockout.

Before Ethel left Ruskin earlier today I read a short passage from Jonathan Rose's Intellectual Life of the British Working Class as I wanted to underline the need for the ILTUS programme at Ruskin and the activist in residence as a place/space for ideas to be shared in the context of Ruskin's tradition of trade union education.

The pictures below provide a small glimpse into the dynamism and excitement of the weekend.

Construct a winning narrative: Ethel's first lesson for the group
Jack helping students to analyse worker resistance in China 
Mary, Chilayi, Janet, Marie, Matt and Louise: Deep dissertation discussion!
Annie, Phil, Byron and Paul: Getting to grips with research questions
Nimisha and Marie: Making a start on research design
Ethel addresses the whole group
In Solidarity


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