Post-16 education is in crisis. Successive Conservative governments have slashed funding and ramped up a process of marketisation and privatisation across the sectors. That’s why UCU members have been at the forefront of resistance and on the picket lines across Higher and Further Education.
Even with a likely Labour victory at the next general election, we believe that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party won’t reverse this trend and rebuild education without massive pressure. This means we urgently need to develop a political and industrial strategy that can defend post-16 education and make real gains for all our members.
As an education union, we must deal with industrial matters but also we are the champions of education. We must deal with the wider political issues that face our members, students and wider society. We have just seen tens of thousands of HE members go through a bruising dispute for the ‘Four Fights’ (pay, workload, equalities and casualisation) including extensive strike action and a Marking & Assessment Boycott.
But despite the bravery and commitment of our members in the face of intransigent employers and punitive pay deductions, the stop-start strategy and outright opposition to democratically made decisions by our present General Secretary meant we failed to breakthrough.
The fantastic victory achieved on USS pensions was achieved off the back of extensive strike action, in the face of the General Secretary’s argument that it wasn’t the right time to fight.
In FE despite historic votes for action the chance to build a serious fight over both pay and national bargaining was squandered yet again by the GS’s supporters who remain convinced that national action is impossible and at best local deals can be achieved.
We’ve seen a wave of redundancies in the wake of the HE dispute. At Brighton University, UCU members engaged in the longest ever strike in UK HE history (129 days) in defence of jobs. This was a dispute of national significance but the branch received inadequate support from the national union machinery. This can’t continue – UCU must implement a serious national strategy to win UK-wide disputes and must support every branch.
But at present UCU’s national initiatives lack a clear strategy or clear leadership. This is why we believe it is important to stand candidates who offer a real alternative, not just more of the same.
UCU Left supporters are standing in the National Executive (NEC), Vice President – FE (VP) and General Secretary elections to ensure there is a root and branch change to how UCU operates. Our candidates are dedicated members with proven track records in their branches. Many have played a leading role in building national resistance and have led local disputes in defence of jobs and conditions.
We need a union where rank and file members have a voice and lead their own disputes through democratically elected strike committees, Branch Delegate Meetings (BDM’s) and the decisions of Congress.
We have been through a transformative experience over the last year – we need to transform UCU.
“I’m a member of a post 92 University and standing for General Secretary. The victory over USS Pensions shows that a serious industrial strategy can win for all sectors, including post 92 Universities, FE, Prisons and Adult Education. Our members have repeatedly called for UK wide action to defend and extend our terms & conditions, and to fight for the future of education. We need to be bold. We need to transform UCU so that grassroots member’s control our union and disputes – our democracy must be strengthened. I will ensure this happens. ”
“I’m currently the NEC rep for LGBT+ members (FE) and Chair of the LGBT+ national standing committee. I’m a lecturer in Business at West London College where I am UCU Vice Chair. I’m in the Labour Party, and an activist within the Labour left. If elected I plan to bring UCU back to local membership with rank-and-file organising, building elected strike committees and implementing Congress decisions. We need more democracy in order to address the challenges we face. ”
Testimonials for Saira Weiner
“My vote for General Secretary will go to Saira Weiner. Saira is not only a fierce defender of a true member-lead union, but also a leader able to achieve synthesis, successfully manage challenging circumstances, balance different views and work effectively with lay reps and staff, as she has demonstrated as the Chair of ROCC, Chair/Vice Chair of North West Region and previously Chair of the Women’s Standing Committee.
With extensive branch leadership experience, Saira knows first hand the challenges activists and members face. Working at a post- 92 institution, she has experienced the results of the marketisation of education and barriers they create for academic and academic related post-16 education staff. She has been working closely with members across the HE, FE, ACE and Prison education, both through regional work as well as through NEC, to support strategies and tactics which will allow for pay and conditions to improve. Saira will conduct her role with fairness and inclusivity, and will be committed to accountability, democracy and militancy.
It is an honour to call Saira a friend, and to be able to vote for her in these elections.
Do use your vote, do support UCU Left candidates! ”
UCU Vice President (University of Westminster, HE)
“I support Saira Weiner for UCU General Secretary as she is someone who stands up for what she believes in and wants to improve education for all.
In FE, we need a GS who will think about a strategy that can win for all of our members rather than an atomised campaign with branches left fighting to improve conditions by themselves. This approach sows the idea that it’s not possible to fight back nationally – it is, and Saira is clear that the national union can provide support and confidence for all members. ”
UCU Branch Treasurer, Westminster Kingsway College (FE)
“I’m backing Saira Weiner for UCU GS. We need a GS who understands that the scale of the crisis facing HE means that unless our union mounts a strong united fight, we will not only continuously suffer pay erosion, but we’ll see the fracturing of national bargaining and the destruction of our terms and conditions.
We need a GS who respects the decisions of the unions democratic bodies and implements them swiftly and fully, rather than imposing her own ideas instead. We need a GS who understands that a strong ballot result is just the first step and that winning a dispute requires empowering members to take the level of industrial action necessary to shift intransigent management.
Saira Weiner will do this. She believes that a union is its members and that a GS must be answerable to them. ”
UCU Branch Chair, University of Brighton