Vote Jo McNeill for General Secretary

Jo McNeill’s video


Dear Colleague,

My name is Jo McNeill. I work in Fair Access in Admissions, I’m President of the University of Liverpool UCU branch, a National Negotiator for HE, I’ve been a NEC member for four years and I’m standing against Sally Hunt in the upcoming General Secretary election.

Many of you won’t know me but if you would like me to come and speak at your branch, both Sally and I can be invited to participate in hustings. You can request this via your branch who can email me at: Sally can be invited via UCU Head Office.

Honest, open, transparent debate should be at the heart of every union and I will make every effort to participate in this during this campaign.

You can read more about me and what I stand for by reading my blog. You’ll find testimonials there from people who do know me and who support my candidacy:

The General Secretary election only takes place once every five years and Sally has been GS of UCU since its inception ten years ago. Regardless of who you vote for, please do vote. During the last General Secretary election only 12% of our members voted. UCU is your union, your vote really matters.

Here are a few questions I’d like you to consider:

  • Are you happy with UCU right now?
  • Do you feel connected with the current leadership?
  • Will you be content with another five years of the same?

If you answered NO to any of the above, then it’s time for a change.

My Vision:

UCU will be a democratic union run by members for members. Together we will reignite confidence in our collective strength to defend our members’ jobs, employment conditions and our education system.

Successes and Failures:

UCU members have driven some very successful campaigns in the last ten years, unfortunately we’ve also suffered some major losses. UCU began with a big win for HE, those pay increases in 2006 came from a successful industrial action strategy, something we haven’t seen on a national level since. The key to that strategy was the 52% ballot turnout. How did we manage to get such a high turnout? A high profile national campaign led up to the release of the ballot.

Successful strategies are not rocket science. They take hard work and strong leadership. Think back to recent ballots over our pensions and our pay, do you recall a high profile national campaign prior to the ballot landing on your doormat? No. There wasn’t one.

The first indication I’ve seen of an attempt to raise UCU’s profile has been in the run up to this GS election campaign. Our issues are making the national press on an almost daily basis. This shows the potential impact we can have when the leadership want to take a campaign seriously.

We need to rethink our industrial action strategies. As General Secretary I will not allow members to be led into fights without a clear understanding of how we can win.

Our Current Situation:

As members we know our employers and the issues we face day in and day out.

  • In all sectors we see our ever expanding workloads taking over our lives, causing untold stress.
  • We experience bullying at work, discrimination, increasing managerialism and job insecurity.
  • Our Prison Educators are working in poor conditions with severe health and safety concerns.
  • Our FE colleagues suffer repeated attacks on jobs and working conditions.
  • In HE casualisation is increasing and the HE Bill is imminent, we must oppose TEF.
  • Many of our colleagues are EU/EEA citizens who are rightly terrified of what will happen post-Brexit. I fully support free movement of labour.

Our education system is worth defending. In recent years UCU hasn’t been able to do that. Describing issues in the press is a necessary part of raising their profile, but alone, isn’t enough. We need to follow press coverage up with demonstrations of our collective strength.

If you don’t feel part of a union that has a collective strength right now, then that’s the first problem we have to fix.

If you agree with me and believe UCU is ready for a change, ask your local branch to endorse me and you can share my blog posts and campaign materials with colleagues and professional networks.

Make your vote count!

I’d be happy to answer any questions you have and you can contact me direct:



Twitter: @jomcneillUCU

Best wishes.


Then they came and kept on coming…

A movement not a moment bw (1 of 1)

Some demonstrations are more significant than others. Not simply because of their size but because of what they represent.

The response, yesterday, to Trump’s ‘America First’ inauguration speech, a slogan stolen from the American fascists of the 1930’s, was awe-inspiring.

Tens of thousands of women and men around the globe marched to show their rage against the misogyny of Trump. Up to half a million marched in Washington, dwarfing the Trump supporters who turned out to support him the previous day. In London at least 150,000 marched.  A woman carrying a placard read: This is a movement not a moment.

It certainly felt like it.

The demonstration in London had a fantastic mix of young and old. History is made up of continuity and breaks. On yesterday’s demonstration, we saw both. There were women who had been on the first ever women’s liberation demo in 1971 marching alongside those for whom this was their first ever demonstration.

Women in Britain have a long history of fighting for their liberation. The demonstration showed how deep the struggle for women’s’ liberation runs in British society. From the struggle of the Suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th century to the fight for control over their own bodies in the late 60s.

From the strikes in 1968 by 850 women machinists at the Ford factory in Dagenham for equal pay, to the strike by 20,000 Leeds women clothing workers.  Women workers from 45 factories in Leeds marched in protest against an agreement made by the union to accept a low wage rise which discriminated against them. To the inspiring Asian women workers at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories who stuck over unfair dismissals of colleagues, pay inequality and racist company practices in 1976 .

All of these struggles and many more like them have made the struggle for women’s equality a central aim of any movement for change.

But yesterday’s demo was not just about the past.  A new generation of women have emerged who are enraged at the inequality that exists today. Their rage is against the rise in sexual violence, the continued attempts by legislators to restrict abortion rights and the worsening of the material conditions of women’s lives.

Forty-five years on since the pay equality act women’s pay on average is 14% less than men’s. Women are still more likely to be in low paid and low skilled jobs. 80% of those working in the low paid care and leisure sector are women, while only 10% of those in the better paid skilled trades are women. Recent research shows that 54,000 women are forced to leave their job early every year as a result of poor treatment after they have a baby.

The government’s austerity agenda has hit women the hardest.  They will have shouldered 85% of the burden of the government’s changes to the tax and benefits system by 2020.  Tax and benefit changes since 2010 will have hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men by 2020. Women will be £1,003 a year worse off by 2020 on average; for men, this figure is £555. Women overwhelmingly make up those workers on zero hours contracts.

It is these conditions and the everyday casual sexism that attempts to justify and maintain these conditions that has given rise to a new women’s movement.

only weak men fear strong women bw (1 of 1)

2017 is the hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution.  One of the first demands granted after the revolution was abortion on demand. A demand we still do not have in Britain today. Leon Trotsky writing immediately after the revolution about how to develop a society anew argues that the key litmus test of how far a society has progressed is how far oppression has ended. He argued when we move towards constructing an equal society that we must all learn to see society through women’s eyes.

Yesterday we did and gained a glimpse of the future where the struggle for women’s liberation and equality for all is as powerful and inspiring as ever.

The fight against racism, sexism, homophobia and all forms of inequality is gathering pace. The Stand up to Racism demonstration in London on the 18th March will the next important staging post in this struggle.

Sean Vernell UCU NEC