UCU Left are saddened to hear that our General Secretary, Sally Hunt, has decided to resign on grounds of ill health. We were all sorry to learn, at the end of last year, that Sally had been diagnosed as having Multiple Sclerosis and had been working with this illness for several years. It is testament to her commitment to UCU, and the Labour Movement as a whole, that she continued for so long in her role despite having such a debilitating illness.
Sally has been the GS since the formation of UCU and has worked hard to build a union across all sectors in post-16 education. Throughout this period the union has become a significant force within the sector and within the labour and trade union movement as a whole.
In the pensions revolt of 2011 UCU played a major role in galvanising a movement that eventually saw the biggest strike in British working class history. As John McDonnell MP said at the time ‘UCU broke the log jam that allowed mass action to get off the ground’.
Sally, as GS, always listened and argued her corner for what she believed was right. We did not always agree. UCU Left has had many arguments with Sally about the direction of the union and how best we can create a union that is able to fight for the best for our members. On occasion these arguments have been passionate and robust.
Most recently around the USS dispute, after initially working with the left to win support for strike action, we felt that Sally and those around her lost their way. As the union engaged in the most prolonged national dispute in its history, the desire to secure a deal led to the leadership attempting to win support for an offer that fell far short of what proved to be winnable. As a new and energetic layer of members joined the union we believed that the union did not know how best to respond to the vibrancy these new members brought into the union.
We wish Sally the very best for whatever she decides to do in the next stage in her life. One thing we are sure of is that she will always be supportive of the struggles of working people. We would like to encourage members to listen to Sally’s speech as President of the TUC at the 150 Congress – it’s a powerful speech and a great summary of the importance of organised labour.
There will now be an election where the future course of the union will be debated.
We believe that there must be a united Left candidate to challenge the Right of the union and provide the kind of fighting leadership we will need in the challenging period ahead.