Campaign to defend all workers’ rights under Brexit

Davena Rankin
Davena Rankin

#stuc19 Congress pledged to work with national and international trade union organisations to protect workers’ rights and to prevent a hard border in Ireland in the event of Brexit.

It will also campaign to ensure no detriment to the audio visual industry, to migrant workers or to arrangements for universities to continue reciprocal arrangements in Europe for Scottish students and staff.

UNISON’s Davena Rankin told delegates that Brexit, no matter what shape, size or colour it comes in, will continue to negatively affect migrant workers.

However, she focussed on the impact Brexit is having on university campuses. She said that even though the fees associated with the EU settlement scheme have now been scrapped, it was telling that while most universities were willing to pay the fee for their EU staff, some universities were only willing to pay the fees for their academic and research staff and when pushed were very clear and unapologetic that they did not see any value in paying for any of their cleaners, janitors or security officers. “To be clear, this meant that the lowest paid staff on campus, the ones least able to afford the settlement fee were being forced to pay for it themselves. Yet another example of the two tier class system that exists on our campuses,” slammed Davena.

Davena works at Glasgow Caledonian University where there are a large number of what they call non-traditional students – “that is students who are the first in their family to attend university.

“So we put in a lot of time and effort in to ensuring that they feel confident enough to take up a fully funded opportunity to travel to Europe to study if they want.”

However despite warm words from Westminster that this could continue, as time moved forward the U.K. Government announced that in the event of a no deal Brexit there would be no funding for future exchanges.
And as fear of a no deal Brexit increased, European partners started saying that they wouldn’t be sending students to the UK nor would they be taking any UK students.

Davena admitted, “This led to a lot of sleepless nights on my part as we tried to come up with a plan B on how we could ensure our students continue to have this opportunity to travel and study – an opportunity based purely on their academic ability and not their financial standing.” Davena said that their European partners have now agreed to offer provisional places to her students but these could still be withdrawn in the event of a no deal, leading to huge uncertainty for students and staff.

“Exchanges offer so many benefits to all of our students even those who don’t travel overseas and importantly it is a scheme open to professional and support staff who very rarely would get any other opportunity to travel on university business.

“The exchange programme also supports jobs in universities and in their local communities and it is something we need to fight to keep,” urged Davena.

Tina Makedenge
Tina Makedenge

UNISON’s Tina Makedenge also contributed to the debate in her role as a STUC black workers’ delegate. She commended UNISON’s work in supporting migrant workers from across the world, and spoke of the challenges they face in this country.

She told of her own situation, where she has UK citizenship but her husband does not, with all the anxiety that creates. The cost for UK citizenship from outwith the EU is very high. She called for the rights of all migrants to remain unconditional following Brexit.

Click here for more information on the STUC website.

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