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A few things we should all know about student & trade union movements

Friday 28-08-2015 - 14:27

On Tuesday I signed a new partnership between NUS and the Trades Union Congress. Alongside TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady we committed to working together in the years ahead.

The agreement builds on our long history of cooperation and is vital for our movement. So, I’ve looked back through the archives and picked a few of the many highlights of our history that you should know about NUS, students’ unions and the trade union movement…


1. NUS has been working with trade unions for over half a century to support students

In the 1950s and 60s NUS had very close links with the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). NUS signed agreements with both and together worked to support and defend the rights of student teachers.


2. In the 1970s and 1980s students’ unions supported unions in the miner’s strikes…

During the 1970s, and particularly in the 1980s, miners were striking to protect their livelihoods. They had strong support from student groups on campus and in the local area. Many students’ unions also collected food and raised funds for miners.


3. Trade unions then supported getting students involved in their students’ unions…

NUS worked closely with USDAW (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) and other trade unions to help unionise students and young people who were participating in the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), as well as similar on the job training schemes. Students who had actively supported the mineworkers helped build a strong activist base within the student movement.


4. NUS and the TUC signed the first joint campaigning agreement in 2006

NUS and the TUC signed a historic first protocol in 2006 and committed to working together. A TUC/NUS study also highlighted at the time that students from poorer backgrounds were having to work to get by and in low-paid and exploitative jobs.


5. After signing the agreement Gemma Tumelty became the first NUS President to speak at TUC Congress

At the TUC Congress in 2006, Gemma Tumelty became the first NUS President to speak to the biggest meeting of trade unions. Gemma spoke of how students, students’ unions and trade unions can work together to secure our values and build the Britain of tomorrow.


6. We’ve worked together to win better pay for students and society…

NUS and UNISON (a union representing workers in local government, education and the NHS amongst other areas) launched a joint campaign for The Living Wage in 2013. Together we organised campaign masterclasses for students’ unions to organise their own living wage campaigns. The campaign won the living wage and better wages on campus in many places across the UK.


7. And end exploitation from unpaid internships…

Together with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), and campaign groups: Intern Aware, Interns Anonymous and Graduate Frog, NUS campaigned to end university careers services promoting unpaid internships.


8. We’ve organised together and encouraged students in work to join their trade unions...

NUS had established an Activist Academy in 2007 alongside the TUC’s Organising Academy to make sure a new generation of student activists were trained and supported and defended the principles and practices of union organising.


9. As well as working with business and trade unions on the future of work…

Trade unions, employers, businesses and young people all came together to form NUS’ Commission on the Future of Work. The Commission has worked together to ensure that a new generation of students can enter the labour market with the promise of no less than a good job, with a fair wage.


10. And working to secure green and environmentally strong jobs…

In Scotland NUS and students’ unions have been working with UCU (University and College Union) alongside People & Planet. Some 80% of students have said that sustainability skills will be important for employment. So together, students and unions have been influencing national skills policy and campaigning for sustainable jobs.  


11. Trade unions have supported NUS in building a more diverse student movement…

In a new partnership agreement in 2013, the TUC agreed to support NUS’ Women in Leadership programme. Together we’ve been working to improve the position of women in our movement but also in work. Frances O’Grady is the very first woman to lead the TUC and has ensured we’ve worked together to inspire women to be leaders.


12. And we’ve been working together all over the UK…

Last year The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and NUS-USI, launched its first ever partnership of its kind in Northern Ireland between the trade union movement and student movement at an event at Queen’s University Students’ Union. And NUS Scotland has been working with the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) since 2009!


13. But we have so much more to do…

Our generation will be the first to be worse off than our parents. Working with the National Society of Apprentices we increased the minimum wage for apprentices but it will still only be just over £3 an hour. There has been an increase in exploitative work with zero-hours contracts and only 1 in 10 of 18-25 year olds is a member of a trade union.


14. So that’s why we must continue to work together with trade unions to win for students

That’s exactly why on Tuesday I signed a new agreement with the TUC. We’ve pledged to work together to fight discrimination on campus in the workplace and in wider society. We’re also committed to fighting together to defend further and higher education from privatisation.


15. And now we need your help…

We need your support and help to ensure we can work together effectively. Together with our #CutTheCosts campaign we’ll work with students’ unions to inform young workers of their employment rights and to ensure they win a fair deal. Working together could not be more important. Faced with cuts to student support, an increase in debt and insecurity at work it is vital that in the year ahead we stand together. So join your union and find out more about our #CutTheCosts campaign here.

www.nusconnect.org.uk/winning-for-students/cutthecosts

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