You and UCU

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Why am I the best person for General Secretary? And other questions asked by the Times Higher Education Supplement. 6 December 06

1 Explain why you think you are the best person for the job

 I am the only candidate who has any real experience of working in HE, FE and Adult education.  I have the experience, knowledge and understanding of the worries, issues and problems facing all those of us who work in the post-16 sector. That experience has not been gained from the comfort and safety of a union office, but from daily casework, leading disputes, fighting on the picket-lines, and giving the members what they want. My record more than stands up to either of the other candidates, and I have the management and leadership qualities that are demanded by this post. 

2 What do you see as the single most important issue facing higher education, and why?

 There is an acceleration of the commodification of education, which is being bent towards the needs of industry rather than the needs and desires of students, resulting in the narrowing of the knowledge base, and the shutting of science departments is an indication of that. Clearly, the whole of the country, and beyond, will be affected by the ‘academic deficit’ that seems to be the only thing left growing in the Petri dishes of the learning laboratory. If the government and universities don’t listen now, it’ll soon be too late. Art without science, Leonardo must be spinning in his grave! 

3 What do you see as the single most important issue facing academic staff, and why?

 Academic staff, and those who support them, are becoming victims of a system that is changing for the worse.   Having learnt the lessons from their colleagues in FE, HE management is now applying its new-found knowledge on all those UCU members in all our institutions.  Neo-managerialism, naked in tooth and claw, is being used to rip the heart out of an academic process where the ownership and control was largely in the hands of the people who would nurture and develop it, and is handing it over to the bean-counters. The result is demoralised and demotivated staff.  It must stop. 

4 What do you see as the single most important issue facing UCU, and why?

 The danger of centralisation and the development of the democratic deficit. A new union, developing a new culture, needs to be carefully led.  There is a need to ensure that all members, no matter which sector they are in, can be fully active in UCU. This means that the Union has to become an organisation that is membership led, which responds to the desires of the members, and does not ignore them. A union where the nationally elected and appointed leaders carry out the wishes of the rank and file members. As rank and file leader, I’ll do just that. 

5 What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in your career to date?

 I’ve been a shop-steward since I was 18.  Throughout that time, I have been involved in casework for individuals and groups, fighting management constantly, in engineering, transport, textile and lecturing unions.  And it’s got me the sack on several occasions.  I’ve also continuously fought fascism and racism. My greatest achievement?   I don’t wear any class war medals.  But I know that I lead from the front, not a desk.  I know that I make the lives of individuals change for the better.  I know that my achievements as a trade union representative allows members to put their trust in me. 

6 Do you believe that the 2006 pay settlement of 13.1% over three years was the best that could have been achieved?

 No.  Both AUT and NATFHE showed an amazing lack of tactical awareness.   Clearly, there was a will to continue amongst many members, just as there was a fear amongst many others that to continue would have been worse than useless. Anyone working in any field of education will tell you that taking action in Spring, as the academic year hurtles to a close, and the Summer break approaching, is like leaving the trenches whilst a full bombardment is taking place. 

I believe more could and would have been achieved, if only the leadership had been more sophisticated in its tactics.

 7 What would be the first thing you would do if you were elected? 

UCU is a new union and whilst the structure will need to develop, there will be a need to ensure that the government and employers know that there will be no cosy arrangements, no hidden agenda, no deals without the members’ say-so.

 All parts of the Union will need to come together to work towards making UCU a powerful and influential voice in the sphere of education – not just as a trade union, but also as a professional organisation. Together, with the members, we will build UCU to become a powerful trade union, and that will start on day one.            

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December 6, 2006 Posted by | THES 6 Nov 06 | 1 Comment