As a UCU member I sometimes feel I’m caught between a rock and a hard place when I think about changes to pension provision on the one hand, and strike action on the other. But I’m not sure Marcus Dysch’s characterisation of the UCU ballot as a ‘rock and a hard place’ dilemma is fully accurate.
It’s true that Sally Hunt’s leadership has coincided with some absolutely appalling events. And it’s true that electing Hunt’s rival, SWP and UCU Left member Mark Campbell, is hardly going to improve the situation. Ronnie Fraser wrote to Academic Friends of Israel supporters:
“One thing is clear – over the next five years, regardless of who becomes general secretary, the union’s fixation with Israel is likely to continue as the UCU Left faction shows no sign of losing control of the NEC.”
But this ballot does at least give us a chance to change things, as half the places on the NEC are up for election. I’ve been frustrated by Sally Hunt’s apparent failure to engage with concerns which have alienated members, and led to several resignations. However it could be argued that Sally Hunt’s hands are tied by the UCU Left dominance of the NEC – so just voting in the leadership election is not enough. Here is what she said in her first campaign email:
I will work with anyone elected by our members. However, the ‘UCU Left’ faction which seeks to dominate our current NEC has its own fees, policies and officers and insists its members follow the party line. It is in effect a union within a union. This approach is unhealthy, bad for democracy and leads to the kind of “we know best” politics which has recently seen TPS members denied a vote on pensions.
This is a link to Sally Hunt’s list of independent candidates, those not tied to UCU Left.
I’ll just say something about the candidates for the role of Trustee, to reinforce the fact that we really do have a choice here. One, Alan Whitaker, is a member of UCU Left. But the other three are (broadly) endorsed by Sally Hunt. Here are some key quotes from their statements:
Alastair Hunter says that ‘The Trustees [need to be] alert to any possibility that expenditure is on a matter not sufficiently in keeping with the aims and objectives of UCU.’
Philip Burgess says ‘Trustees must ensure that union funds are not risked by divisive geopolitical gestures, which invite legal challenges or drive members to resign.’
Neil Macfarlane says that ‘congress and NEC … must be wary of committing the union to policies, particularly with international dimensions, that might be in conflict with the aims and objects of the union, lack sympathy with the wider membership, and even verge on the unlawful, so putting the union’s funds at risk.’
Clearly there are people taking the time and trouble to stand who are not hard liners. Do support them.
But – your votes have to be in this Thursday – so if you haven’t sent yours in, do so tomorrow (I’ve left it rather late myself, so might add a first class stamp to my prepaid envelope).