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Education guardian – 7 September 2006

Dear Sir, 

It was interesting to read about the equality row in the UCU (“The smiles have long faded”, Education Guardian, 5th September 2006), and the manoeuvrings regarding the election of general secretary. Your reporter, Francis Beckett, was correct in linking the two issues together.  However, anyone paying attention at NATFHE’s last conference could not have missed my declaration of my intention to stand as a candidate.  A declaration made in response to Paul Mackney’s attempt to pre-empt the election process by using his last speech as General Secretary to rubber-stamp his chosen successor, Roger Kline. 

Whilst it is obvious that equality is, and should be, of the highest priority to UCU, what seems to be less clear to the joint General Secretaries is how the members feel. Yes, we can all point to the records of the predecessor unions and their equality structures and the commitment of the full-time officials.  But what really needs to be looked at is what the members think. 

The issue of equality is not just about gender. Has anybody asked the black members what they think of the union and how it represents their views, or deals with their issues, or addresses their problems?  The same question can be asked in relation to disabled members, LGBT members and those members who are part-time. 

And it is not just members in those sections who are feeling disgruntled. UCU members in adult education, prison education and specialist colleges are feeling marginalized, as are members in Wales, (and Scotland and Northern Ireland?). This is an important year for the members of UCU and it is clear that this founding year will set the tone for the election of the general secretary.  

This election should not just be about the posturing of the big boys and girls in London, but about what kind of union the members really want, and what kind of leader the members really want.   

Naturally, my view is that the members should be given a real choice in the election.  A choice which allows them to vote for a member who has actually had experience of working in post 16 education, and who does understand the issues of equality. 

Yes, the UCU needs to develop a culture that has equality at the heart of its organisation, its campaigning and its philosophy.  But it needs to convert that to addressing the needs of all its members, individually and collectively and ensuring that the terms and conditions of employment are improved, fighting bad employment practices – and stop marching them to the top of the hill just to march back down again. 

Yours sincerely     

Peter Jones

 UCU Wales  

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September 7, 2006 Posted by | letters | Leave a comment