The Solidarity Federation Education Union (SFEU) is a new initiative, which grows out of the desire for connected struggle and defence of education workers across the board. In our small but growing Union we welcome all workers within the sector, from primary to higher education, and all roles within the industry, from caretakers, classroom assistants, through to teachers. While some of the existing unions can be fairly effective, many workplaces have no real union presence and workers are left to either defend themselves or have "agreements" imposed upon them. Furthermore, traditional British trade unionism tends to replicate rather than challenge divisions of workers along lines of grade, function, degree of precarity, and workplace by prioritising the interests of specific categories at the direct expenses of others.
The SFEU is a unitary Union and aims to breach these divides. There are plenty of reasons for organising in this way, and the threats to our industry are many. Given the government’s dire handling of the pandemic response, teachers and pupils across the country have been forced to return to unsafe conditions at school; staff at further and higher education institutions are having contracts terminated (and/or opportunistically not renewed) and there are now several universities where redundancies are programmed; a million university students have either received no face-to-face tuition this year while they have been charged exorbitant rents and tuition fees.
In addition to the immediate issues arising out of the pandemic, all levels of education are suffering from under-funding, privatisation, low pay, a lack of job security and marketization, as well as from the further intensification of a pervasive logic of competition and individualising “meritocracy” through exams- and test-based forms of learning. Given the fact that all these issues affect students too, they can also join our Union, thereby further breaking down the divide between those regarded as the “producers” and the “consumers” of education.
We feel that it is essential for workers in this sector to come together to resist both the government and management by employing new tactics. These tactics include a return to more militant approaches, such as boycotts, strikes, and what we call direct action - action that we decide ourselves without having to go through endless committees, ballots, and stifling legislation. We organise horizontally through the principle of mutual aid, meaning that we have no executive committees, no paid officials, and are committed to transforming education and the world in which we live without having to trust that others with interests we don’t share will do it on our behalf. Join us!