Thursday, 17 July 2008

Rank and file - Part 3

The institution of tighter job regulation for workers accompanied by greater discretion for managers in universities to make decisions over employment issues, represent an irrational postmodern transformation of universities into capitalist corporations, while the ideological neoliberal project driving such developments, functions to alienate academics and other university workers.

Academics find themselves working involuntarily in the interests of the capital imperative; for institutions primed to strategically manufacture employable and instrumentally‑qualified graduates to join the labour force.

In such a context, alienation of workers is an unavoidable consequence of managerial discretion, not only because it dissolves worker autonomy and control over their own working lives, but also because it forces them to work against their own interests, teaching for commercial gratification of the employer and with an ever-diminishing voice in shaping education for social and cultural, as opposed to purely economic ends.

HE manager discretion over employment issues is legitimised and reinforced by legislative changes regarding statutory disciplinary and grievance procedures, which do little to protect employees or increase their rights during internal disciplinary processes.

Without a strong presence of rank-and-file worker activity, unions existing to represent academic employees open to disciplinary and other discretionary actions from managers, adopt a passive role which does little more than support employers in containing conflict and reducing disruption.

With the prevailing focus in British Industrial Relations on economism and avoidance of conflict, academic employees are collectively failing to oppose the encroachment of capitalist managerial controls over the social relations of production and represent their antagonistic interests in the struggle for control over their own labour. In a technically-rationalised and marketised system of HE, workers and students both become commodities to be traded and exploited by employers on both sides of the graduation line.

The manifestation of university and particularly academic worker interests, is presently oppressed by academic managers who are encouraged to exercise discretion in the name of their employers and therefore in conflict with the interests of academic employees, serving only to alienate them. As in the case of disciplinary processes, such discretion is a mechanism aimed at internalising control and authority over the worker condition and the discourse of power, while reinforcing the ‘right to manage’.

In doing so, managers determine a postmodern perversion of ‘natural’ justice as being at the disposal of and beneficial to, the smooth and unquestionable operation of the capitalist university.

Unionised rank and file indipendent base committees are an alternative to the passivity of mainstream unions for Universitites and Colleges.


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