One of the issues that has given the NUS the greatest embarrassment is the failure of the national conference in March to even discuss the issue. Some have asserted that this wasn't the NEC's fault, but past NUS Conferences have shown that when the NEC is behind emergency motions time has been made for them. The failure to take a lead and seek a mandate from the conference has left the NUS exposed and I am not surprised there is talk on the educationet messageboard about unions potentially disaffiliating.
The latest NUS update details NUS's meeting with UCEA and also their lobbying of the Association of Graduate Recruiters to ease the problems for students graduating, but also contains the following statement:
STEERING COMMITTEE TO RESPOND TO THEIR FAILURE TO ENSURE A MOTION ON INDUSTRIAL ACTION WAS DEBATED AT NATIONAL CONFERENCEThe "done everything they could" rings hollow and I wonder just who will be editing and passing on the response. And why on earth is the National Secretary Gemma Tumelty (and National President elect) having to write to the Steering Committee when she's the NEC member on it? Doesn't she know the answer?
Delegates at regional conferences have made it clear that they were frustrated that a motion on the industrial action was not debated at the national conference in March. This frustration has been shared by NEC members who had done everything they could to ensure that this was debated. An emergency motion was put forward, and Steve Wharton, President of AUT, traveled up to Blackpool to answer students' questions at Julian Nicholds, Vice President's invitation. Following the Steering Committee's failure to allocate time for this debate to take place, Gemma Tumelty, National Secretary, has written to them requesting a statement that explains the reasons for this. We will ensure that members are informed of the response of the Steering Committee.
I hope that the NUS NEC does not try to pass the buck onto the Steering Committee for the failure of the conference to discuss the motion. If the NEC were so confident that their position was actually supported by students' unions, they would have submitted an emergency motion themselves and ensured that the time to debate it was found.
These attempts by the NUS to reconnect with students and get back in touch are piecemeal at the moment. They need to do a lot more to reassure students and students' unions across the country that they are listening to concerns. Otherwise I would not be surprised if unions start disaffiliating.