Can you see a pattern? Following our audit of redundancies in the summer that identified some 1500 jobs at risk or disappeared in recent years, universities are stepping up the assault on jobs. UCU needs to prioritise this and to call a national day of action to support local campaigns and to link up with the pay battles that are to be re-launched in the new year.
Congratulations and solidarity to everyone involved.
The University of Liverpool UCU branch recently passed an excellent motion about how monitoring the attendance of Tier 4 international students can intensify the ‘hostile immigration environment’ and further discriminate against a particularly vulnerable group of students. We note the important work done by Unis Resist Border Controls and are keen to see branches support each other in challenging institutional demands to ‘tighten up’ monitoring procedures. What steps has your institution taken to monitor the attendance of international students and what instructions has the institution given to staff to enforce this? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with details.
Remember that the official guidelines are very imprecise and that many institutions have created their own systems in order to comply with UKVI rules. For example, the Home Office guidance document lists the following ‘compliance concerns’ without detailing precisely what kind of records are required for universities not to fall foul of their responsibilities.
- Failure to keep records about the institution.
- Failure to keep records about Tier 4 students.
- Failure to report a change in the sponsor’s circumstances to UKVIand/or the relevant Educational Oversight body.
- Failure to report that a required rating in a Statutory education inspection and/or a Tier 4 Educational Oversight has not been achieved/maintained following an inspection by an Educational Oversight body.
- Failure to report a change in students’ circumstances.
- Failure to withdraw sponsorship from non-compliant students.
- Failure to take steps to ensure that students have valid leave.
- Instances of the Sponsor Management System being misused.
- Failure of students to comply with their conditions of leave.
- Failure to register students with the appropriate awarding bodies.
- Failure to report that you want to surrender the whole or part of your licence.
This kind of vague language means that we need to press – as the Liverpool UCU motion does so well – for minimal compliance with statutory duties and to protect staff who, for moral and political reasons, object to performing monitoring duties.
We need to gather together both a list of actions demanded by institutions and branch responses to this hostile climate. So please email email@example.com with any information. Meanwhile, here is the Liverpool motion:
This was published by the NDC after its recent meeting in October 2018
The NDC notes and commends the sacrifices of UCU members in taking strike action to reject proposed and unnecessary changes to the USS pension scheme. The NDC welcomes the SWG statement on the JEP report. The issues considered by the NDC to be crucial for the SWG to address are as follows:
1. The NDC believes that in light of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP) findings (specifically page 29) and other publicly available analysis from multiple sources — including British Economist and Ex Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King, alongside individual academics such as Sam Marsh and Mike Otsuka with specialist knowledge, that the employer consultations overseen by USS and Universities UK have misled employers, Scheme members, and the public about the health of the Scheme and the nature of employers’ risk appetite.
2. The NDC believes that Test 1 is fatally flawed and should not be used in any further valuations. USS should engage transparently with the SWG over Test 1, and share all data and working out with the SWG. Moreover, the NDC recommends the SWG push USS firmly on this matter. Failure by USS to share data with key stakeholders continues to create mistrust and is counterproductive to resolving the USS dispute. USS has, for more than a year, failed to grant employer and member requests for crucial asset growth projections. These projections fatally undermine USS’s central argument for its proposed 10.6% contribution increase. They also seriously call into question whether there is any deficit at all and any need for any increase in contributions whatsoever.
3. In light of considerations 1 and 2, the NDC resolves that USS does not have a basis for its claim that the proposed 10.6% contribution increase is necessary. By continuing to use Test 1, USS is damaging members’ trust in the Scheme and compromising the Scheme’s long-term health. The NDC believes that the SWG must challenge the continued adherence by USS to Test 1.
4. USS must consult employers again, making clear to them that previous consultation documents implying the existence of a deficit and the need for a contribution increase were based on incomplete data and erroneous assumptions and analysis.
5. The NDC notes the multiple additional layers of prudence identified in the JEP report that have contributed significantly to the purported deficit in the November 2017 valuation. The NDC believes that the changes suggested by the JEP are not sufficient and that the SWG should push USS and UUK for further adjustments and full justification of all assumptions.
6. The NDC notes the JEP finding that Test 1 drives the shift to a low return asset portfolio and the doubts expressed by the JEP regarding the necessity and wisdom of this approach. The NDC also notes findings by Sam Marsh and First Actuarial that the scheme would be in surplus and no increase in contributions would be required if the current asset portfolio were retained. Accordingly, the NDC believes the SWG should reject any valuation based on increased investment in low return assets.
7. UCU and its advisors, in negotiations prior to September 2017, raised many of the deficiencies in the November 2017 valuation identified by the JEP. Many were in fact raised during the 2014 valuation. Had these long-standing concerns been properly addressed in a timely manner the industrial dispute need never have occurred.
8. NDC observes that the JEP phase 1 report does not engage sufficiently with issues of equality and regrettably restricts its consideration of equality to intergenerational equality. NDC urges the JEP and particularly urges UCU-nominated members of the JEP to consider broader areas of UCU equality policy, particularly given that any contributions increases or any detriment to DB pensions arrangements have a disproportionately adverse impact on equality and precarity.
9. NDC notes that neither phase 1 nor phase 2 of the JEP report engage with evidence of employer underpayments over a decade and the associated losses in investment returns to the Scheme. NDC directs UCU leadership and SWG to formally investigate these underpayments, associated investment losses and the lack of governance accompanying underpayments including failings by trustees to behave prudently at times of changes in accounting methodology or in allowing employers to reduce surpluses or increase deficits to the Scheme’s detriment.
The NDC believes that the precipitate and misleading attempt to impose a DC scheme on members was a disappointing and unwarranted breach of promise by employers. Given no reform of the scheme was required, and therefore UCU members were compelled to take strike action that was unnecessary, the NDC adopts the following:
1. UCU members should suffer no detriment in any proposed resolution of the USS dispute. Lost earning should be repaid, any interim contribution increases should be shouldered by the employer, and USS benefits should remain the same.
2. UCU should call upon UUK and individual Vice Chancellors to apologise to their staff for their role in triggering the dispute.
3. UUK and individual Vice-Chancellors should also apologise to students for their actions and offer appropriate compensation for lost teaching.
The NDC notes there are important areas of concern to UCU members and matters of UCU policy that are not covered in the JEP report. The NDC recommends that the SWG push for negotiations on these issues. The NDC also recommends that the SWG insists that resolution of the dispute incorporates reform of the Joint Negotiating Committee so that the scheme cannot be modified without the approval of members.
Three motions from Oxford UCU submitted to SHESC
Motion #1 on Pay & Equality
‘Expand NDC to include Pay and Equality in remit’
Conference notes the formation of the National Dispute Committee for the USS dispute.
1 To expand the National Dispute Committee so that it includes post-92 representation and for this expanded NDC to include the HE Pay and Equality dispute as part of its remit.
2 Per Congress conventions, NDC meetings will be divided into a Pay and Equality segment for all representatives and a USS segment for USS representatives.
Motion #2 on Pay & Equality:
‘Study best timing and duration of ballots’
1 That while the turnout for our recent ballot was the highest yet for a Pay and Equality ballot, most branches were below threshold, so we should look for all possible optimisations for future.
2 The turnout was higher in the previous USS ballot, and one contributing factor may be the different timing in the academic year.
Conference calls on HEC to:
1 Study the best timing and duration for ballots, as well as the pros and cons of running concurrent ballots, by examining past ballots and gathering information from branches on their academic terms/semesters.
2 Consider how to shift the timing of the annual pay negotiations to be more favourable for us.
3 Report back to members at the 2019 Congress.
Motion #3 on USS/JEP:
‘Enable NDC to submit motions to Congress and Conference’
1 The formation of the National Dispute Committee to steer the USS dispute.
2 That the NDC is not among the list of committees which may submit motions to Congress or HE conference, as the rules have not yet been updated.
Conference resolves to amend the UCU rules as follows:
Rule 16.7.1: following “under Rule 25”, add “, National Dispute Committees”
New rule to be added following 16.7.5:
16.7.6: National Dispute Committees will each be entitled to submit two motions and two amendments to Congress, and two motions and two amendments to their relevant Sector Conference(s).
Motion from UCL UCU
USS – National Dispute Committee: strengthening accountability during industrial action
Conference welcomes the work of the National Dispute Committee (NDC) and thanks its members for their hard work.
Conference notes that the NDC was set up by a decision of HEC that changed it from a large delegate body elected by branches (as originally intended, to address identified democratic deficits) to a committee elected as a subset of, and from, HESC delegates.
Conference resolves that if members are balloted for industrial action over USS, the NDC will be formally reconstituted on the same basis as Higher Education Sector Conference. The NDC will then have the same pro-rata delegate entitlement per branch and be formally constituted to permit delegates to make decisions about the conduct of the dispute. For the duration of the dispute the NDC will then replace informal ‘consultation meetings of branch delegates’ with no voting powers.
Two motions passed by Newcastle UCU, 24 October 2018
Conference welcomes the JEP report and further notes that
- JEP has shown that the contribution increases imposed on members for this valuation are the result of failures in scheme governance, regulatory oversight, and employers’ handling of consultations and negotiations
- JEP does not address the employers ‘contributions holiday’
- USS’s valuation rests on a mistake in calculating Test 1
As a result, there is no deficit in the scheme and no need for detrimental changes to benefits or contributions
Conference calls on universities:
- To acknowledge that USS is not in deficit
- To pay for any contribution increases still deemed necessary for this valuation after Universities UK, USS, and the Pensions Regulator have responded to the report
- To urge universities to repay the deducted wage of those staff who took strike action during the dispute that resulted directly from universities’ own errors.
Reballot on Casualisation, Equality and Pay
- That only seven branches exceeded 50% turnout in the recent ballot for industrial action
- That Newcastle University UCU had 46.7% turnout
- That many branches had turnouts of 35% or more
- That many members are concerned this suggests a lack of interest in casualisation and equality
- Therefore conference resolves
- to redefine the dispute as “casualisation, equality, and pay”
- to reballot all branches with turnout between 35% and 50%
- to plan a campaign for the exam period in spring 2019.
Motion: The JEP Report – who pays? Passed unanimously by UCL UCU on 3 October
1. The historic 14 days of strike action and the threat of further action that forced the employers to abandon 100% DC and led to the JEP report;
2. The triggering of rule 76.4 imposing cost-sharing of 40%+ increased contributions;
3. The contents of the JEP report that noted the scheme was not at imminent risk of default and it was UUK’s attempt to reduce the Employers’ Covenant that triggered de-risking;
4. As an interim measure the JEP proposed that total contributions should rise from 26 to 29.2% of salary, an increase of more than 12% in contributions.
1. To call on the employers to pick up the full cost of increased contributions;
2. To ballot members for industrial action if either a) the employers fail to accept the JEP report in full or b) the employers attempt to pass on costs they have generated onto employees.
Motion on JEP passed by Lancaster UCU
LUCU welcomes the JEP report and notes that –
1. While JEP recommends that the Scheme valuation could be much improved to maintain existing benefits, the 2nd phase of JEP that reviews existing methodology for alternatives is yet incomplete,
2. there is no agreement as yet, with UUK consulting employers over proposals while concurrently USS is consulting members on cost-sharing,
3. JEP does not address the employers irresponsible ‘contributions holiday’ while recommending an increase in contributions to maintain existing benefits,
4. members’ interests need to be protected as the dispute is not yet over.
This branch believes that –
1. UCU’s democratic structures and members should determine the outcome through the elected JNC,
2. that the National Disputes Committee should guide the JNC based on policy determined at HE conference,
3. the employers should bear the costs for any contribution increases till the JEP publishes its final report.
Motion on JEP report passed by Goldsmiths UCU on 17 October
Goldsmiths UCU notes
- the sacrifices of UCU members in taking strike action to reject the proposed and unnecessary changes to the USS pension scheme
- that the JEP report justifies our position in taking this action given the clear flaws in the 2017 valuation process
- the proposed increase in contributions to maintain existing benefits is due to start in 2019
This branch believes that
- members should not bear the cost of any increased contributions which should instead be covered by the employers
- any final offer from the employers in relation to the JEP report must be put to members
- the National Dispute Committee should guide the JNC based on policy determined at SHEC.
We’re very excited to announce the publication of our branch activists’ handbook. Thanks to the support of various UCU branches and many different contributors, we have produced a guide about how we might best respond to many of the challenges we face in the contemporary university. Please read, copy, distribute, and act on. Let us know if you want to organise a meeting focused on some of the themes here. If you want a hard copy for £5 or whatever you can afford, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Given the need for greater democracy within the union, the Branch Solidarity Network fully welcomes the establishment of the Democracy Commission. We would encourage all members to cast their vote in this important ballot to help improve our democratic structures and bring about greater transparency and accountability within UCU. We have provided the personal statements of all candidates to help members make informed decisions on how to cast their vote for candidates who will best provide us with the union democracy we desperately need.
Higher education (12 seats; 6 pre-92, 6 post-92, at least 6 to be filled by women)
Saira Weiner (Liverpool John Moores University, post-92, woman)
Members having confidence in UCU’s democratic structures is absolutely crucial if we are to continue to build a fighting, responsive and active union.
The USS dispute involved an unprecedented number of new members becoming active for the first time. However, serious questions have been raised about internal democracy which urgently need answering.
If elected I will seek to ensure members views and rights are of primary concern within the union and the structures are transparent, clear and democratic.
As a member of Women’s Standing Committee, and previously as elected Equality Rep on NEC I will seek to ensure that Equality is at the heart of our UCU and that the democratic structures reflect this. I am currently Branch Secretary at LJMU UCU branch.
Pat Hornby Atkinson (Edge Hill University, post-92, woman)
UCU is now 12 years old. It was formed as two great unions AUT and NATFHE merged. It is time to take stock. A great deal has changed in the Higher and Further Education sectors since 2006 and it is good that we review and reflect so that we can respond speedily and effectively. I would like to see a complete and thorough review and one that takes into account all ‘voices’. We are a diverse group but we share a common interest in defending an education system that is under attack. We have to get this right for all of our members and for the future of higher and further education and the students who rely on us to fight for their futures.
Christina Paine (London Metropolitan University [City], post-92, woman)
I stand for the UCU democracy commission as a representative of London Metropolitan University. I am NEC HE Casualised Rep and I have always fought tirelessly for the rights of casualised workers, women and disabled members both in my university, within the UCU and in wider joint union initiatives. As a representative of post 92 universities I will fight for a members-led, grass-roots union which fights on issues which affect ordinary members and will fight for the democratic structures we need to be made in order to win disputes. I have fought solidly in my workplace, and in out wider union on workload, redundancy, health & safety, disability and mental health, women’s equality, and to raise the profile of casualization. We need a union with a transparent structure and a minimum of bureaucracy, where the principles of member representation and equality are upheld throughout disputes and within our democratic structure.
Lesley McGorrigan (University of Leeds, pre-92, woman)
Six years on NEC has given me insight into a democratic deficit in UCU. Our Leeds branch has a healthy democratic tradition. When members realise that they ARE the union ie. the offices, staff and assets exist to serve their decisions and interests, we are a powerful force. UCU is effective when members are in the driving seat. We saw this during the USS dispute where member meetings around the country communicated via social media, dictating the direction of a delegate meeting in London. Conversely we suffered a low point when HQ emails argued to accept a deal which was not endorsed by the elected HEC. Democracy works when those on the ground in our colleges and universities use our voices to determine and influence policy, strategy and action. We can learn democratic lessons from all our past struggles and activities; I will bring this memory into the Democracy Commission.
Mark Abel (University of Brighton [Grand Parade], post-92)
Having previously served in a variety of branch officer roles in both UCU and its predecessor NATFHE, I am currently Chair of the Coordinating Committee at the University of Brighton.
Drawing on my experience of two industrial disputes at Brighton in 2017 in defence of the union’s negotiating rights, I was a member of the UCU’s Commission on Effective Industrial Action, and was elected to the NEC earlier this year.
The Democracy Commission provides an opportunity to address the problems which emerged at Congress 2018 and to improve the way in which disputes are handled by the leadership of the union. We need to find effective democratic mechanisms which allow members control of the strategy and direction of the union, especially during sector-wide industrial disputes, and the ability to hold their elected leaders to account.
As a member of UCU Left, I support the principle of a member-led union.
Sean Wallis (University College London, pre-92)
I am president of the UCL UCU branch, London HE regional secretary, a member of the National Executive Committee, and a national negotiator.
I was on strike for 14 days with my colleagues. I am a member of UCU Left.
I have some ideas as to where democratic deficits exist:
- Member-accountability of disputes. The process of calling sector conferences is arduous and insufficiently responsive to events, whereas ‘branch delegates meetings’ are too loose to be democratic.
- Accountability of officers and officials. The Commission needs a plan to increase the accountability of all elected postholders to those who elect them. Mechanisms for recall should be clear and transparent. We have Model Branch Rule 12 – but no equivalent in the National Rules.
- Democracy is not just for the top. All branches should ensure they are models of accountability and involvement.
I am very keen to hear from members.
Mike Finn (University of Exeter, pre-92)
As a trade unionist who has worked across sectors, including teaching from year 9 to postgraduate level, I have been on the frontline as our institutions has been under attack from market fundamentalism. As an expert on higher education policy, I have both witnessed and written on how education itself is being broken up in favour of what Collini calls ‘HiEdBiz’. The most powerful weapon we have in our fight to save our profession as educators is our trade unionism – but until now, the voices of members, branches and activists in UCU have only been intermittently heard. In recent disputes it’s become increasingly clear that to fight as effectively as we can for public education we need to revitalise our union’s democratic structures. Were I elected that’s what I’d be arguing for – giving members not only voice but the opportunity to lead the union from the grassroots.
Rachel Cohen (City, University of London, pre-92, woman)
UCU membership rose massively during this year’s USS and FE pay disputes, with unprecedented grass-roots engagement and interest in decision-making. For many pre-92 members this has resulted in new frustrations with our national representative structure and with branches’ (limited) influence.
Meanwhile, as an NEC member (2016-2018), I witnessed my and others’ efforts to increase transparency and accountability, being repeatedly obstructed.
Our branch brought motions to UCU Congress 2018 that will increase democracy and transparency and accountability, but there is more to be done – something made clear by the disruption at Congress.
The Democracy Commission is timely, therefore. It provides an opportunity for UCU to embrace diversity and for members to reclaim, and remake our union (#ourUCU).
See my more detailed suggestions in USSBriefs23, ‘UCU’s national democratic structures: a case for reform’ (https://ussbriefs.com/briefs/).
Bruce E Baker (Newcastle University, pre-92)
I have been a member of UCU since starting my career in the UK in 2004 and have served on the branch committee and as branch chair/president at both Royal Holloway, University of London and Newcastle University. At both those institutions, I have helped lead successful local campaigns, against redundancies at RHUL in 2010-2011 and against research performance management at Newcastle in 2015-2016. I believe many of the problems HE and FE face come ultimately from bad governance of our institutions, and the same is true of our union. Our successes have come from the hard work of our members, being bold enough to stand up against management. Our failures have come not from our weakness, but from a culture within the union that has presumed the leaders know better than the members what it is we want and what we are willing to do to get it.
Colin Younger (University of Sunderland, post-92)
It never occurred to me not to join a Union. I remember listening to the claxon sounding in Hebburn Shipyard knowing the men had ‘downed tools’ over some social injustice. Crossing a picket-line was apostasy; people were poor but pulled together in mutual support, then the miners’ strike; frugal times yet common goals.
In a sense, the miners led me to apply for this position. My brother, a staunch supporter of UCU, President of the DMA, and a Chair of Engineering died of a brain-tumour in April. He was 55. Paul was lauded and lionised for his ceaseless campaigning for social justice. In these post-truth, post-Thatcher days of extreme Neo-Liberalism, workers’ rights are increasingly threatened and everything from Health to HE has been marketised in the service of Capitalism. I want to pick up Paul’s baton and support my fellow-workers in the interests of the many not the few.
Dr Jamie Woodcock (University of Oxford, pre-92)
I am a researcher based at the Oxford Internet Institute. I have previously been involved in six different UCU branches, including being a rep, on the executive committee, and elected to the national anti-casualisation committee. As a UCU member since 2010, I have campaigned for a democratic and accountable union that is prepared to fight for its members. The latest pension campaign has highlighted a deep democratic deficit within the union. During the dispute, I helped to organise a rank-and-file bulletin called “The University Worker” (the archive can be found here: http://www.notesfrombelow.org/tag/ucu-pension-strike ). Along with a Facebook group of over 1,000 people, we used this to encourage communication and organising between members. I also co-organised the “Open letter rejecting the UCU/UUK agreement at ACAS”, which gathered 10,000 signatures. If elected to the Democracy Commission, I will continue fighting to democratise UCU, raising the voice of the rank-and-file in the review.
Anne Alexander (University of Cambridge, pre-92, woman)
- The USS strikes showed that members really care about democratic accountability in UCU, with regular mass meetings and high levels of engagement by branches through delegate meetings and interactions with NEC members
- We can build on this momentum to make UCU into a genuinely ‘member-led’ union
- I believe that means creating a culture in the union where elected officials at all levels accept they will be held to account by members through democratic deliberation
- On the picket lines in the USS strikes we could see a new union coming in being – with massive participation from casualised workers and with women, LGBTQ and BME colleagues playing a leading role – let’s make sure that is properly reflected in our elected committees
Michael Bailey (University of Essex, pre-92)
Our union needs a shot of democracy. As an active UCU member I welcome the opportunity to participate in the forthcoming Democracy Commission, to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the recent USS strike action, and to discuss future industrial negotiating strategies. If elected, I would do my utmost to ensure that the Commission undertakes a fair and transparent consultation by listening to the views of all members and committees. It’s vital that members and staff have confidence in the union’s leadership, democratic structures and overall ability to protect our interests. Finally, as well as being a member of Essex UCU committee, I have experience as the branch representative for Colchester Trades Council, Secretary for Wivenhoe Branch Labour Party and Trade Union Liaison Officer for Harwich and North Essex Constituency Labour Party. Please support me as an energetic and independent voice.
Des Freedman (Goldsmiths, University of London, pre-92)
Our union has grown significantly in the last year because we have fought back against our employer’s offensives on pay, pensions and casualisation. Many members are now asking tough questions about whether their voices, and those of their local branches, are sufficiently heard by the national leadership and whether that leadership is properly accountable to its members. We need meaningfully democratic structures that both allow us to conduct effective campaigns and to represent the views of ordinary members at critical times. This simply didn’t happen during the recent USS strikes until members themselves applied pressure.
I am vice-president of Goldsmiths UCU and its former president. I have been a branch activist since I joined Goldsmiths in 2001 and recently helped to launch the Branch Solidarity Network that aims to support branches as they campaign on issues at both local and national levels. Democracy is a key part of our struggle.
Jane Harvey (University of Wolverhampton [Walsall], post-92, woman)
Please support my application to the Democracy Committee. I have been a committed and active member since 2000 when I entered HE from the NHS. I have served UCU members as a caseworker, negotiating committee member and Branch Chair. I have attended congress for several times, including 2018. I intend to ensure that the Democracy Committee will enhance the democratic functions of our union. All views, whether from vocal minorities or not, need to be heard but not to drown the views of the majority of members. I intend to bring common sense and pragmatism to bear and ensure that congress never repeats the mistakes made this year. I want the structures and processes to be transparent and fit for purpose with appropriate foresight regarding potential outcomes of decisions.
Dr Douglas Chalmers (Glasgow Caledonian University, post-92)
Currently President Elect of UCU and becoming President in June 2019, I chair the HE Committee of UCU. I am very anxious that UCU adopt the most democratic standards possible and that our way of working makes us a beacon for democratic practice in the Trade Union Movement.
Having been active at most levels of the union, and remaining active at branch level, I am aware of some of the shortcomings of our day to day work. I believe that we need to give more emphasis to the views of members, that we should be a ‘member-led’ union and that relying on centrally based Congresses and conferences are not the best way to ensure the voice of members is accurately heard. I believe that there needs to be more accountability of members of our national, regional and UK wide committees ensuring that they are indeed representative of the union’s voice.
Marian Mayer (Bournemouth University, post-92, woman)
A trade union activist since I began working in HE in 2004, branch roles held include Faculty representative, Equality officer, Chair; currently Vice-Chair and Health and Safety representative. I am the elected chair of the Southern Region committee. Previously a member of the Commission for Effective Industrial Action: the commission’s report was unanimously accepted at Congress, endorsed by the President. As your representative I will work with colleagues on the Commission to ensure that we produce a well-researched and fully informed report for Congress 2019. Democracy, transparency and accountability are core principles for effective union activism, and my abiding principles in all of the work I do on behalf of members. There is great potential for this commission to bring together all activists within the union to work for the benefit of members, and to strengthen UCU so that we can resist attacks on pensions, pay and job security.
Grant Buttars (University of Edinburgh, pre-92)
I have just taken over as Branch President at UCU Edinburgh and have been a member of our branch since 2002 and more active since c2012. I am also active in a range of grassroots campaigns and organisations.
Democracy has to be at the heart of a trade union. Part of this is the capacity for self-criticism and change. A strong union is one with an active and engaged membership, supported by an accountable leadership. This means creating flexible and responsive structures and processes that puts members’ voices at its heart and ones that can change easily and accountably to meet changing needs and circumstances.
The union is its members. The structures and processes should serve those members. If they are simply rules to be followed, we weaken our capacity. In this time of crisis and uncertainty, it is imperative that we have a union that is fit for purpose.
Anthony O’Hanlon (University of Liverpool, pre-92)
I am a UCU member who was inspired to become more active during this year’s historic and transformative USS dispute. While the dispute may have originally been based on pensions, through the conversations that took place on picket lines among the many new grassroots members, it exposed an energy and enthusiasm to push back against the aggressive marketization of the Higher Education sector.
A dynamic, democratic and transparent UCU which strives to engage with, and is ultimately accountable to the rank and file membership will be key in enabling us to transform the FE and HE sectors. If nominated, I will work to ensure our democratic structures provide a platform for our hugely expanded membership to have a say in the direction of our Union to bring about positive changes to our working conditions and environment.
To democratise our workplaces we must begin by fully democratising our Union.
Jess Meacham (University of Sheffield, pre-92, woman)
I’m a branch officer at Sheffield UCU. Along with Sam Morecroft I co-authored the Congress motion calling for a democracy review and a piece for the SUCU blog about the rationale behind it, which you can read here: http://ucu.group.shef.ac.uk/why-we-are-calling-for-a-democracy-review/. As a branch, Sheffield UCU believes that the democracy commission is an important opportunity for UCU to consider how it might be most effective as a democratic, campaigning, member-led union.
I’ve represented Sheffield at Congress for the last two years and was heavily involved in the USS strike locally. Sheffield has an active, participatory membership that has, along with the rest of the union, been transformed by the strike. I’ve been involved in several member-led initiatives this year, including USS Briefs and Our UCU, and I’m well-places to represent the interests of members from pre-1992 branches on the democracy commission.
Dr Caitlin Adams (Open University, pre-92, woman)
I’ve been active in the union for c. 14 years as an academic and academic-related member. I am currently a vice-president of the Open University branch.
I’ve seen the effectiveness of AUT/UCU structures in many areas, but also watched new members put off by what seem archaic rules. Procedures designed to ensure debate sometimes feel accessible only to long-term insiders. The relationship between regional and national structures is unclear.
In representing a distance-learning institution I would advocate sensible experimentation with online engagement. I would suggest improved election processes (perhaps to include video addresses or hustings) and greater openness about the work of union committees.
Whatever results from this commission, members should be able to determine where votes have been cast on issues that matter to them, and how their elected representatives voted.
Kirsty Keywood (University of Manchester, pre-92, woman)
I am a newly-returned member of UCU, having rejoined the Union to support the action against USS proposals. I have over 20 years’ experience of developing policy within and beyond the university sector that is responsive to member and stakeholder input. I have been recently co-opted to the UMUCU exec and am working with members to improve support for colleagues with a mental health diagnosis. I helped organise a number of events @WilliamsonBuilding during the strike that you may have followed on twitter.
The recent strike has highlighted significant tensions among the membership as to how the UCU ought to move forward and the ways in which members’ views should feed into industrial dispute decision-making and ongoing policy development. Nevertheless, there is a shared commitment to move forward and to rebuild trust and confidence in our union. I would like to be part of that process.
Denis A Nicole (University of Southampton, pre-92)
I believe that the work of the Democracy Commission will be a vital component of UCU’s evolution as we grow and take on the challenges of marketisation. Our successes in early 2018 were overshadowed by the dreadful events at Congress; we must not damage ourselves in this way again.
I will work to help develop revised structures to ensure that the decisions we take as a Union meet the aspirations, and carry the support, of the great majority of members in our branches.
I have served as Southampton University Branch President and as Southern Region Chair; I am currently Region Treasurer and a member of the NEC. I was the opening speaker at the SW TUC/UCU “Tolpuddle University” in July.
Adam Hansen (Northumbria University, post-92)
As Northumbria UCU Branch Vice-Chair, it would be my privilege to contribute to the Democracy Commission. Democracy is fundamental to how unions work because a union is only as strong as its members. That strength comes from working with members, and finding new ways to do so. UCU can be good at this, but could be better: we need to reach out to people who have big ideas but don’t know how to be heard in the union’s existing structures – meaning those structures may need to evolve to work for both more and less active members. As one of the country’s biggest branches, Northumbria has a lot to say about the union’s democratic structures, and works very hard to engage people. I hope to share nationally our local experiences of this, but I also anticipate learning from other branches too, to help equip us all for future struggles.
Toby Andrew (Imperial College London, pre-92)
The University pension dispute illustrates how determined the UUK is to ruthlessly promote employer interests at the expense of staff, including the abolition of the UK university covenant pension scheme. I believe we need a union that is equally determined to uncompromisingly defend the interests of staff, especially given the current context of unaccountable and reckless university administrations. In order to achieve this, we need a campaigning union that demonstrably puts the interests of its members first, engages the membership in discussions about the best way to do this and most importantly, that the UCU is structured and organised to be solely accountable to the membership. If I am elected to the UCU democracy commission, I will endeavour to positively contribute to revitalising and democratising our union in order to defend our members, in particular casualised staff.
Further education (8 seats; at least 4 to be filled by women)
Justin Wynne (East Sussex College Group [Hastings])
I have been an active Branch Secretary for almost 4 years and going into my 2nd year on the FEC and NEC. In this time, I have been involved in rebuilding and doubling the Branch size. By engaging with non-members to turn them into members, and then move from passive to active members seen in a 67% turn out in our last ballot. For me, there is a democratic deficit where only the minority of active members guide our union based on a mandate from the minority of the branch. This needs reviewing to ensure that our Union is working for the majority, not the minority of members. Without this, no campaign or strategy undertaken will have the best support of our members.
Cecily Blyther (Petroc, woman)
Petroc Anti-casualisation Rep, Health and Safety Rep, SW Region Anti-casualisation Rep, Minutes Secretary, Anti-casualisation Committee, NEC, FE Rep for Casualised Staff
While there is disquiet about the workings of the organisation at the top of UCU, any work our members are doing will not be as effective as possible. It is imperative that we review our democratic structure and ensure that all of our operations run as smoothly as possible.
I am keen to ensure that fairness and equality rule and that as many members as possible will have a chance to have their say in the running of our union. As the employers concentrate on finding ways and loopholes to increase the percentage of academic staff, it is very important that we continue to keep our sights on fighting to reverse this trend and to facilitate a meaningful consultation that includes all casualised members.
Margot Hill (Croydon College, woman)
I am standing for election to this commission because I want our union to be a campaigning union that acts as the voice of our members as they take on the struggle against marketisation, low wages, inequality and in defence of education. Last year saw thousands join UCU to take action against pension attacks in HE and against low pay in FE. Members engaged in branch building and campaigning on an unprecedented scale and want their voices to be heard and acted upon. At Congress questions of accountability, recall and democracy came to the fore expressing frustration over decisions that many felt exposed a democratic deficit in our organisation. I am Branch Secretary of Croydon College, a former national negotiator and an NEC member. I have been active in disputes at all level. UCU needs to be an active campaigning body that embeds accountability and recall at all levels.
Kerry Lemon (NCG – Newcastle College, woman)
I am seeking election to the democracy commission as I recognise the importance of accountability and integrity.
Everyone, regardless of their position, elected or nonelected, has responsibility for their decisions and actions. It is essential that we create processes that work in the best interests of all paid and lay members to uphold the values at the core of our trade union.
I am experienced at working collaboratively with branch members on issues affecting them; working directly with our Principalship to improve working conditions. As a branch we have had success implementing workload processes, streamlining roles and making positive changes to observation processes.
My background in senior leadership within the childcare sector includes significant, relevant experience in implementing complex, politically relevant structures, policies and processes to ensure best outcomes for children, staff and stakeholders, balancing sectoral needs against a changing political climate, to ensure fairness, accountability and transparency for all.
Carolyn Campbell (Trafford College, woman)
At this year’s conference a motion was passed expressing the concerns of some members about the democratic processes within our union and this commission seeks to address those concerns. All democratic organisations, and especially trade unions, need to scrutinise their policies, procedures and processes in order to ensure the full participation and representation of members, and that such policies are fair and accessible to all. This is especially true in times like these when trade unions are increasingly under attack in the form of government legislation that seeks to curb their activities. I would welcome the opportunity, as an independent candidate, to represent the views of members in FE in this forum. I am currently a member of the NEC and FEC, representing members’ in a number of roles including National Pay Negotiations and the Legal Support Review Panel. I have the skills and experience to represent your views.
John James (Coleg Gwent [Newport])
As the Chair of Council for UCU Wales, I am standing to represent both HE and FE sectors. As a TUC lecturer, I also work closely with other unions and understand how they democratically organise.
As a member of UCU left, I believe too many members view UCU as little more than a service to which they pay as an insurance. It is vital for our Union systems to be more open and transparent that allows members to have more of a say in its decisions.
The recent Pre-92 HE strikes saw a resurgence in member-led activism that inspired thousands however the handling of the dispute has now caused significant issues being highlighted at this years Congress at significant cost.
We now can reset our structures bring a balance between our members views and representative democracy. We need a union that it fit for the future.
Jacqueline D’Arcy (Warwickshire College Group, woman)
I am standing as an independent candidate.
Democracy in UCU must mean:
- Elected officers, committee members and congress delegates being directly accountable to members for their decisions
- Big Decisions taken by as many members as possible not just the most politically active or those able to attend meetings and conferences
- The opening up of our structures to enable the widest possible participation in UCU
The union faces real challenges both from government and our employers. Pay is being held down. We face increasing workloads, more casualisation and attacks on hard fought for conditions including our pensions.
If we expect members to support us on these issues, we must give them a real say and a real vote on every big decision that affects them.
If elected, I will argue for a commission that places rank and file members at the centre of UCU’s decision making.
Rachel Minshull (Leeds City College, woman)
Democracy and accountability are essential for any progressive and successful union. Members expect their elected representatives to reflect the majority view of the members that they represent during both discussions and voting. The Commission must fully discuss how this can be achieved and implemented.
Democracy and accountability must be integral at all levels within UCU. This includes branch, regional and national levels. The Commission must fully discuss the roles of regional and national officials.
The scenes and action taken at the last Congress must never be repeated. We need to ensure that members of staff who work for UCU have appropriate means to raise their concerns. Standing orders that cause ambiguity need to be addressed.
We need to learn from our own experiences and best practice used by other unions.
If elected to the Commission, I would fully engage with discussions to fully integrate democracy and accountability within our union.
Martha Harris (City of Liverpool College [Arts and Mulberry], woman)
The USS dispute this year brought a quantitative change to the UCU membership but also a qualitative one. Newly engaged members are engaged and energised to rigorously resist the destructive impact of marketisation on HE. FE is also experiencing an era of unprecedented marketisation. This shift towards markets and quasi-markets within FE has resulted in an erosion of the sense of ‘social purpose’ of FE and a rapid decline in Community Education and Second Chance learning programmes. A cohesive UCU is imperative and instrumental for fighting these attritions
A cohesive, democratic UCU, which endeavours to engage with, and is fully accountable to its membership, will be crucial in transforming HE and FE. If nominated, I will work to ensure UCU’s democratic structures offer its membership a voice in the direction of our Union to bring about positive changes to our working conditions, environment alongside protecting a comprehensive curriculum for students.
NB There are also contested seats in regional and devolved nations involving Scotland, London and Southern but we don’t have access to candidate statements for these.