A New Leader: A New Era for UCU?

Isn’t democracy exhausting? Just as MPs are constantly having indicative votes on Brexit, it seems to some that UCU is always involving us in a ballot of some sort. The latest invitation to participate in UCU matters involves the current postal ballot for a new General Secretary. This opens today, closing on May 23th. This time we have three candidates, Jo McNeill from the University of Liverpool, Jo Grady from the University of Sheffield and Matt Waddup who is currently UCU’s National Head of Policy and Campaigns. Last time our General Secretary was challenged, in 2017, participation was a shocking 13% (just 13,700 members), so let’s see if we can generate a little more enthusiasm around this contest.

Few of us have met all the candidates, so let us sketch them for you. Jo McNeill is an established activist in an academic-related role, she is well known amongst elected UCU members who attend union meetings and she captured more than 40% of the vote when she challenged Sally Hunt just two years ago. Jo has long argued that UCU needs to both reflect its members’ interests and find ways to engage their commitment to win various campaigns. Jo Grady, a senior lecturer, emerged as an activist during last year’s USS dispute and is a leading force behind USS Briefs, a portal established last year to publicise research into and arguments about the state of UK universities. Both Jos have agreed to ask their respective supporters to give second preference votes to the other Jo. Matt Waddup does not work in HE, prisons education or FE; having been employed by UCU for some time, he worked closely with the last General Secretary. The candidates’ manifestos can be found at:

Jo McNeill

Jo Grady

Matt Waddup

Although it is short notice, hustings will take place tonight at Goldsmiths University, in RHB 251, from 5pm-7pm; Jo McNeill and Jo Grady will be attending.

Members will be aware that there are many crucial issues before us, challenges for which we need the right leader. Our pension dispute last year led to agreement by UCU and Universities UK (UUK) to set up a Joint Experts’ Panel to explore how best to safeguard a decent retirement income. University Superannuation Scheme (USS) has rejected two crucial recommendations from the first report – despite acceptance of the report by employers and UCU – so the fight for a decent pension may resume. Meanwhile the sector as a whole remains on tenterhooks waiting for the Augar report to offer recommendations on student fees,  which could threaten VCs’ lavish remuneration packages and the vanity building projects now so beloved across English universities. Such an environment, coupled with Brexit uncertainty, makes is harder for UCU and members to battle against the established university “evils”: ever increasing workloads, outrageous levels of casualisation and a continuing gender pay gap.  Pressures within universities themselves and from government and wider society mean this General Secretary will face great challenges, so it is fortunate indeed that three candidates stepped forward.

Members of your Branch Committee were happy to support the nomination of Jo Grady, to enable her to gather enough signatures to stand as a candidate for General Secretary. At our Branch Committee meeting, next week, we will discuss whether to formally endorse a particular candidate.  The role holder will be in post for five years, at a crucial time for HE, prison education & FE in the UK, so let’s get the leader we need. Please use your vote in this ballot. And don’t forget, at RHUL we will be reporting back on the year and electing a new Branch Committee at our AGM on Wednesday 29th May. Details of the AGM will follow soon.

Posted on behalf of members of the RHUL UCU branch committee.

Get involved with the branch for 2019-2020!

Members should have received an e-mail with nomination forms for elections to the 2019/2020 RHUL UCU branch committee.  The elections will take place at the Annual General Meeting on 29th May 12.00- 14.00. Please note this date in your diary.

The timetable for nominations and the election is as follows:

Request for nominations sent out on or before Wed 17th April 2019

Deadline for nominations (28 days before the election to allow time for a ballot, if necessary): Wed 1st May 2019

Annual General Meeting and Election: Wed 29th May 2019

Committee to arrange hand over during June/July 2019

New Committee take over August/Sept 2019

Completed nomination forms are due to the Branch Organiser, Penelope Smith, by 1st May.

Not sure about serving on the committee but still want to get involved with supporting the union and your colleagues? We are always on the look-out for new caseworkers! Caseworkers support their colleagues and protect themselves, and there’s excellent training on offer. Here is what one caseworker has to say:

I became a caseworker because I was grateful to the caseworker who helped me when I first started asking questions about equal pay at Royal Holloway. Casework involves supporting members who are facing difficulties in the workplace, helping to ensure they are being treated fairly, equitably and reasonably in what can be very difficult and stressful times. Caseworkers gain skills, knowledge and expertise particularly in areas of employment policies and law. They are backed up by regional officers. But beyond the good citizen aspect, caseworkers learn how to protect themselves and their colleagues when the going gets tough. And that is increasingly useful in tough times.

I have found it very rewarding that so many of the people for whom I have been a caseworker, have gone on to help others by becoming more active in the UCU or volunteering for assessment panels where they can help to promote equalities. Many of them keep in touch years later.

If you’d like to find out more, please drop Penelope a line at Penelope.smith  at rhul.ac.uk.

Nomination for election to RHUL UCU Branch Committee

Nominations are now open for the election of members to the RHUL UCU Branch Committee for 2018/19. You can download the nomination form here.

If you would like nominate yourself for one of the named positions or as an ordinary member please complete the nomination form and get signatures from two RHUL UCU members to support your nomination.

The named positions are: Chair, Vice Chair, Branch Treasurer, Branch Secretary, Recruitment and Membership Officer, Equality Officer, and Anti-casualization Officer. There are also positions for four ordinary members and for a Health and Safety Officer.

If there is more than one candidate for any of the named positions then a ballot will be held for that position.

The positions will be formally elected at the RHUL UCU Annual General Meeting on 23rd May 2018.

Completed nomination forms should be sent to the Branch administrator, Penelope Smith, by 25th April 2018. Forms may be sent electronically to penelope.smith at rhul.ac.uk, or via post:

School of Biological Sciences
Royal Holloway
TW20 0EX.

Please do contact members of this year’s committee if you would like to find out more about the what each of the roles involve. More details can be found in the local rules under item 8.