Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mark Thomas & St Athan debate film banned

OU bans film!

OUBUCU Ethics Group The Group was established by the Branch Executive in February 2007 to promote discussion and debate on the application of ethical guidelines to the University's partnership activities. It campaigns for the application of ethical guidelines to partnerships because: -

  • the University should be committed to social justice in practice
  • it enhances the reputation of the OU brand
  • it makes long-term business sense
  • societal and organisational awareness of ethical, environmental and corporate responsibility is spiralling upwards
  • it's just plain right !
Does it matter from the Open University's Income comes from? So they organised a meeting to discuss this and following it
The campaign went to Milton Keynes as guests of UCU and had an opportunity to speak to the audience after Mark Thomas who was talking more generally about the arms trade. The custom is that the event is filmed and made available to staff and union members who where elsewhere at the time however the OU have apparently stopped and banned the film from been shown anywhere - so sensitive they are to criticism or discussion on the issue. Derek Prior - with the grand title of director of communications - was seen lurking in the background - the OU very own speech police (pr/spin person) ! I don't think he liked his letter being quoted!

What did the Vice Chancellor Prof Brenda Gourley have to say in March 2007 at the opening of the ou posh new offices in Cardiff??
"we are proud to have contributed to Wales’ latest success, one of the biggest ever investments it has attracted. Earlier this year the UK Government announced their decision to site a new defence training academy at St Athan here in the Vale of Glamorgan. As a long-term partner in the successful Metrix consortium, we are already hard at work with our partners to turn the MoD’s vision into the reality of a military training centre of excellence. The initiative is expected to create around 5,000 jobs and bring around £58m to the economy annually - a massive boost for Wales and a perfect example of what partnership working can deliver."...whoops!

The Open University branch of the University and College UnionAddress: OUBUCU The Open University Room 015, Wilson C Walton Hall Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, Tel: Email: 01908 653069 ucu@open.ac.uk ...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Should the OU be involved in the Arms Trade?

Does it matter from the Open University's Income comes from?

UCU asks in 'the spark' may 2008
Q. is the branch agaisnt partnerships with the armed forces?
A. UCA nationally and at Branch level , does not oppose students from the armed forces. The Metrix [partnership is different. It raises controversial issues regarding privitisation and the business methods of those we enter into partnerships with. One of the company's has been involved in a series of bribery and industrial espionage cases and another has been condemned for applying 'racial sterotypes' to trecruiting (and sacking) staff. Involvement with Metrix associates the University with the murky world of arms trading. what is the brand message there?
Q. what are the guidelines about
A. The guidelines focus on four main areas - arms trade, animal; welfare, ecological impact and corporate responsibility (including human rights) They set basic requirements that organisations wishing to partner with the University should meet. rather than 'reinvent the wheel' the guidelines are based on those successfully used by the co-operative bank.
They are set out as proposals in a preliminary Branch document which will be presented to senior management in the next month.

Q. Are other universities doing this?
A. while the OU heads into partnerships with arms manufactureres, other universities are going in the other direction. University College London has decided to withdraw all investment from arms companies. St Andrews University and Pembroke college, Cambridge have already done so. UCL has said it is conscious of the negative effect arms investment may have on alumni donations. New Hall and St Catherines colleges, Cambridge, have divested from companies doing business with the Sudanese government. The more 'commercial' universities become, the more strategic partnerships will come under the media spotlight, and influence the attitudes their stakeholders take to them.


Rays from the Gods

Metrix Shambles - Media, Ministry and Top Brass Question furure of OU privatisation partnership

Ethics and partnerships, where is the OU ethical policy?

From Society Matters
Ethics and partnerships: the OU and the St Athan Military Academy
The Open University now boasts a Centre for Ethics and includes ethical teaching in its curriculum, but it does not yet have an ethical policy guiding its corporate partnerships. The recent link between the OU and the Metrix
consortium has led to protests in Wales and may result in far wider ramifications for the institution
I too believe that universities and their staff should aim to encourage students to ‘think ethically’ and equip them to
confront the great dilemmas and paradoxes of our time. Vice Chancellor Brenda Gourley Independent Open Eye, 1 July 2008

Life at the OU in Wales took a new turn recently, with demonstrations against the University’s involvement in a military training consortium taking place outside our building. Over the past year, the ‘Stop the St Athan Military Academy Campaign’ has been publicizing and attacking the OU’s involvement in the Metrix consortium, which followed its success in being awarded a government contract to run a training agency for all of the British armed forces at St Athan in South Glamorgan.
The OU is a member of the consortium, along with some major arms manufacturers, including QinetiQ and Raytheon. Raytheon
manufactures Tomohawk and Patriot missiles, and missiles capable of carrying cluster bombs; QinetiQ hit the headlines with
criticisms by the National Audit Office of the process whereby, in the privatization of DERA, the responsible civil servants became
multi-millionaires overnight.
Thousands of training jobs from around the UK will be moved to St Athan, just outside Cardiff, where up to 5,500 jobs will be
created. This figure is one that fluctuates and is contested, but it is claimed that the St Athan Military Academy, costing £15 billion,
will be the largest ever public-sector project in Wales. The project is welcomed by local MPs and Welsh Assembly
Members, by the Welsh Assembly Government and by all of the major political parties in Wales. Nonetheless, several Plaid Cymru
members of the National Assembly for Wales have spoken against it, and there are a small but vociferous number of people in Wales opposed to the militarization of the economy. Anti-militarism has been a core element of the nationalist struggle since its inception, and is a perspective shared by many key figures in public life.
Does this new partnership fit with the mission of the OU – to create and enhance life opportunities? There are concerns about any
institution’s associations with the arms trade. Jennie Lee, one of the main founders of the OU, was firm in her stand against arms, in that she was against the UK acquiring a nuclear deterrent.
Various UK universities (including St Andrews and several Cambridge colleges) have adopted ethical investment policies.
University College London, under pressure from students and alumni, is among those that are considering doing so. The School of
Oriental and African Studies and Goldsmiths, University of London and Bangor University have withdrawn investment from arms
companies. The OU has still to decide on whether it needs to devise clear and fully transparent ethical guidelines to steer its business partnerships.
Other institutions have been more forthright. The Norwegian state pension fund, which includes its petroleum fund, and Liverpool City Council are among the bodies that have disinvested from Raytheon, on the basis of its implication in war crimes and killing civilians in Iraq and Lebanon.
Of course, military technology and the armed forces are involved in defence as well as attack, and there are plenty of us who subscribe to notions of ‘just wars’. But the plan is to train not just British troops, but armed forces from around the world. The idea of training troops for the Burmese government is more controversial than training British troops.
Others do not share this political or moral concern, but object on pragmatic grounds: that the OU risks tainting its brand. In a sense,
the greatest asset of the OU is its brand. The brand isn’t just a logo but is a reputation, and the reputations of organizations increasingly are linked to their ethical and environmental policies and practices.
We only have to look to Nike, McDonald’s, Tesco, the Body Shop and the Co-operative Bank to see the centrality of ‘the brand’ to
business performance. Across the economy and around the world there is a huge growth in the ‘corporate social responsibility’ agenda. In one sense, this is recognized by the OU, which recently launched a Level 1 course on Ethics in Real Life and takes very seriously its commitment to development in Africa. At the same time, it is in partnership with the World Bank to develop a private university in Pakistan, in collaboration with Tesco regarding using clubcard points to pay course fees (see Society Matters No.10), and is now linked with the Metrix consortium.

This suggests the need for an ethical, environmental and corporate esponsibility framework for the OU’s relationships with other
organizations. With its deservedly high standing, the OU brand is of enormous benefit to us all. The good reputation of the OU is an asset and needs to be defended actively.
In response to the University’s involvement in the Metrix consortium, the Open University Branch of the University and
College Union (OUBUCU) has formulated a set of ethical guidelines to be applied to the future selection of its strategic partnerships with external organizations. The guidelines set out criteria regarding the arms trade, ecological sustainability, animal welfare and corporate responsibility to ‘filter’ out partnerships which may commercially damage the University’s brand. At the time of going to press, a paper setting out the arguments for their implementation has been presented to the Vice-Chancellor and the Branch awaits a response to its suggestion that a forum be established between union and management to discuss the guidelines. The union believes the University cannot be financially successful in the future unless it is committed to an ethical approach to partnerships.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anti-metrix campaigners talk to OU staff at Milton Keynes

Anti-metrix campaigners at Milton Keynes

Campaigners took the message to Milton Keynes - with the support of Mark Thomas - to highlight the key role the OU is proposing to play in the privatised military academy in bed with arms dealers & war profiteers Ratheon, Serco, Qinetiq, and incompetent EDS... and to ask what happened to ethics? What is the OU ethical stance?

Mark Thomas is in Cardiff
- Tue, 7 October (19:00) - Borders Bookshop - CF10 1AH - Talk and book signing.

see his website for more information.. http://www.markthomasinfo.com/

Mark's new book, "Belching Out the Devil" will be published on 25th September 2008. It is available for pre-order from Amazon

Mark new book is about Coca Cola. As many of you may know Coca Cola bottlers in Colombia face allegations that the plant managers colluded with paramilitaries to bring about the deaths of trade unionists working for the Coke plants.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Private Eye on Metrix plans

Private Eye articles ...
metrix-miscalculation can be viewed here .


Metrix reloaded! The full article can be viewed here.

A further article reports on how Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deals such as the Defence Training Review have been used to hide roughly £200bn of future spending in order to balance the books. The full article can be viewed here.

Article from Private Eye on Geoff 'Bull' Hoon crazy scheme
17 may

Raytheon training to sell more arms

Shows how Raytheon want to use training as a means of expansion amd arms sales. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=a6X0tNLjSjQM&refer=uk