[Draft] Emergency Motion – Overseas Ventures

Emergency Motion – Overseas Ventures

An increasing number of Higher Education Institutions are increasing their involvement in overseas ventures, whether this be financial partnerships with local providers or directly operated overseas campuses.

A specific recent example of the latter is the campus operated by the University of Birmingham in Dubai, soon to undergo a dramatic expansion with a second phase of construction estimated to cost in the region of £100m.

Conference has previously passed important motions aimed at safeguarding the rights of LGBT employees who may feel pressured directly or indirectly to work at such overseas.

Despite this however, the growing scale of these ventures and the speed with which UK HEIs are involving themselves in international ventures warrants a national position from UNISON which is both more radical and reflective of the myriad risks these ventures can pose to LGBT rights, workers rights more generally and the financial stability of HEIs should these ventures fail.

In particular conference notes:

  • The recent case of Matthew Hedges, a PhD student from the University of Durham who was arrested, detained and convicted in the UAE purely for the conduct of research before being pardoned and released.
  • The case of Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge University researcher who was murdered in Egypt in 2016 while conducting research into independent trade unions, subsequent to which many Universities have been encouraged by Universities UK to investigate partnership working and standalone campuses in Egypt.
  • The involvement of the UAE (a frequent target for new campuses and other ventures) in the ongoing war in Yemen.

Conference resolves to condemn the decision of any individual Higher Education Institution to open campuses abroad without consultation with recognised trade unions.

Conference also stands in solidarity with those branches of UCU who passed motions boycotting academic work with the UAE during the imprisonment of Matthew Hedges.

Conference feels that:

  • Any HEI deciding to open a campus abroad should have regard to the ITUC’s index of workers’ rights and the worldwide index of LGBT rights prepared by organisations such as Human Rights Watch.
  • Wider human rights violations and breaches of academic freedom should not be overlooked by any HEI in the pursuit of profit.

Conference instructs the Service Group Executive to:

  • Provide guidance to branches regarding the action they can take in relation to problematic overseas working, and in particular what scope there can be for non-academic staff to refuse UK-based project work involved in overseas ventures.
  • Develop a guidance document for branches on overseas ventures specifically tailored to HEIs including the questions that should be asked at an early stage, how to safely build links with locally based workers and rights organisations and the implications these ventures have for recognition, negotiations and consultation.