UCU GS Election: Union takes a leap to the left

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UCU General Election (GS) result marks a significant shift to the left. The election of Jo Grady as the new UCU general secretary demonstrates that members want a break from the past. Jo Grady stood on a platform of no detriment in the USS dispute and for resourcing the #FEfightsback campaign. She made clear her commitment to fight and to reverse the hostile environment that so many of our BAME members face in every institution up and down the country.

Demands for greater democracy within the union also played a role in this election. With Jo’s election there is an expectation that no longer will the union be run by plebiscites or through by-passing branch, regional or national structures.

It is clear from these results that the vast majority of members want change and they want it now. The magnificent USS dispute has broken the stifling strangled hold of the once dominate Independent Broad Left (IBL) led service trade union model. They want a union that fights for members’ interests in a dynamic and inclusive way.   They voted for less pragmatism and more militancy.

The left’s combined vote was 74% of the total vote. UCU left supported Jo McNeil  her first preference votes went up from when she stood against Sally Hunt. UCU left are proud that 61% of her second preferences went to Jo Grady.

UCU Left look forward to working with Jo Grady to transform UCU into a democratic fighting union that can send shivers down the spine of every employer.

The failure of Matt Waddup’s campaign, who represented the old guard, to win despite attempting to distance himself from the discredited IBL also demonstrates the desire for change amongst the membership of UCU. Members were not fooled by his attempt to portray himself as the experienced militant trade union leader who had been red baited in the Daily Mail and supporter of sustained strike action.

We now need to hit the ground running. Members in all sectors face real and immediate dangers unless the union acts now. In HE the unfinished business of the USS dispute needs urgent attention. The new General Secretary must throw all the union’s weight behind a campaign of industrial action by calling a ballot straight away to finish what we should have finished 12 months ago.

In FE the fantastic success over pay and conditions experienced by branches that have taken action so far in the #FEfightsback campaign must be built upon. A letter must go out to all branches directly after congress asking them to join the nationally coordinated campaign.

The scourge of casualisation was referred to and denounced by all the GS candidates. UCU has done well over the years at highlighting the impact of casualised contracts on our members but the time for case studies and surveys is over –  what we need now is action.

The new GS must send a letter to every branch in FE and HE encouraging them to submit claims to fractionalise staff as the first step to end casualisation. Refusal by the employers to do so must be followed up with the GS campaigning for industrial ballots in every branch that demand employers in our institutions make casualised contracts history.

Racism is now a growing problem on our college and university campuses. Whether it’s the institutional racism that excludes BME students from Russell Group universities, the appalling BME pay gap or the growing threat of the far right organising on campus. In the wake of European elections that saw big votes for the far right across Europe and a huge vote for a racist and Islamophobe like Nigel Farage, UCU needs to remain at the forefront of building a mass anti-racist movement.

Our union must have internationalism at its core. From Palestine to the Middle East imperialist conflict rages. The inspiring school students’ strikes against climate change show what is possible. Internationalism has always been at the heart of UCU and must remain so. We need our GS to lead from the front on these issues.

The first step is to campaign throughout the union to build the biggest possible UCU contingent on the Stand Up To Trump demo on the 4thJune.

UCU left was proud to support Jo McNeil as the candidate for UCU GS. Unfortunately, we did not convince enough members to do the same. But what we did manage is to significantly deepen and broaden our networks. We will use these networks to help implement the decisions that members vote for when they make policy at this year’s Congress and sector conferences and to unite the union around issues that members want to fight over. UCU left, as always, will do all it can to ensure that our nationally elected officers carry out the wishes of the members.

Please find here three reflections on Jo Grady’s election as General Secretary from the Branch Solidarity Network.




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