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:
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.