British Council insolvency avoided but future uncertain

11 Jun 2020

PCS welcomes the announcement that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is giving the British Council an emergency loan of £60 million to help the organisation avoid insolvency, but we remain committed to campaigning for its long-term future.

The body – which promotes UK cultural and educational relations around the world – has been severely damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

The PCS campaign to save the British Council has received cross-party parliamentary support and had a global reach through working with educational institutions. The campaign has seen redundancies paused and additional funds allocated and British Council management reported that the union’s campaign and political pressure was a key factor in the release of additional funding.

So far, more than 1,500 people have signed our e-action and 40 MPs have signed our Early Day Motion, both of which call on foreign secretary Dominic Raab to allocate additional funding to the council, to enable the organisation to continue operating beyond June.

Campaign remains

This week, the British Council received a £60 million loan from the UK Government which covers its operational costs until mid-August. The longer term future is still very uncertain for the council, so the campaign remains as important as ever.

While this development gives staff some security, it is only short term. The 2020 pay review is still frozen for the British Council employees. The BC chief executive officer Ciarán Devane has also warned that the council could become a very different organisation in the future; confirming fears that ‘structural’ changes which could include job cuts and other drastic measures could be brought in.

PCS believes that the British Council should be allocated sufficient funding to continue operating independently of ministerial control. Its arm’s length relationship to government is an important factor in its global success.

Joint campaigning

PCS met with representatives from the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) who have been promoting #WhatTheBritishCouncilHasDone on their website and social media accounts. UCML works with universities, language organisations, employers and government bodies worldwide. Both PCS and UCML agreed to continue promoting each other’s campaigning work; UCML is inviting people to provide testimonials on how the British Council has helped them, you can make contact with them through their website.

Petition

We have now launched a petition which we are encouraging everyone who interacts with the council or supports our campaign to sign and circulate. There are over 10,000 British Council employees worldwide, with activity happening in over 100 countries; we hope that the petition will garner global support.

New activists come forward

This week we contacted British Council members by phone to speak to them about participation in the campaign. Hundreds of conversations took place, and more than 30 members agreed to become more active in the union to help out. This demonstrates the strength of feeling from members and shows that campaigning is building union strength. We are now arranging virtual training and support for these potential advocates.

Keeping up the pressure

PCS members at the British Council are still asking for your support for their campaign.

You can support the campaign by:

Email helenf@pcs.org.uk to offer your support to the campaign.

 

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