Following our Annual General Meeting, UCU Left are pleased to put forward our candidates for Vice President (FE) and for the position of General Secretary. We will also be standing a slate of candidates for the NEC elections.
UCU members have been at the forefront of resistance to the UK’s political and cost of living crises and have probably taken more action across the UK than any other union. UCU members have achieved one of the biggest victories by any UK workers with the win over the USS scheme. But every step of the way we have had to fight our union leadership to win. This simply can’t go on – these elections are crucial and deserve to be taken seriously to ensure all the key issues are raised and debated.
Saira Weiner for General Secretary
Saira has a long-standing record in UCU in her branch and UK-wide. She is regional Vice-Chair / HE Chair in the North West and as a former NEC member she has chaired the Women Members Standing Committee and Recruitment, Organising and Campaigns Committee. Saira is a disabled granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and unequivocally supports Palestinian rights. She is a staunch anti-racist and ally to our LGBTQIA+ members, and will defend our trans and non-binary members against increasing political attacks.
As the Branch Secretary of Liverpool John Moores UCU Saira has taken part in extensive UK-wide strike action over the last 12 months, as well as the MAB. Congress and Sector Conferences are the sovereign policy-making bodies of the union, and decisions made need to be honoured. Saira believes that when Sector Conferences agree to set up strike committees, take significant action, and have a summer ballot, this is exactly what should happen. The members should be informed of what is happening at all times and confidentiality should not be used unnecessarily to keep members in the dark. She knows what it’s like to experience the punitive pay deductions that many UCU members have faced – she will fight for a union that supports its members at every step of industrial action. The question should always be how will we do this, not can we.
Peter Evans for Vice-President (FE)
Peter is an active and passionate campaigner in his branch at Hammersmith and West London College where he serves as Vice Chair, he has been instrumental in increasing grass roots member activity in the branch and in London Region where he was Regional Chair. He is committed to ensuring UCU campaigns are brought closer to local memberships and less London centric. Peter is an active member of Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party where he sits on the General Committee as a Socialist Education Association delegate, he is an experienced trade unionist and political campaigner, taking up issues now under threat in a post-Brexit UK, and with the consequences of Covid.
Peter’s work with the LGBT+ Members Standing Committee where he is Chair and the Equality Committee where he has served as Vice Chair has been instrumental in fighting for liberation for everyone and draws on his experience of building the early Pride movement and as a founder member of Stonewall’s steering committee. Peter is committed to the rights of trans and older comrades within UCU and will continue to campaign for them. Peter is committed to opposing the rampant marketisation of education and developing UCU’s policy and campaigning to effectively challenge and reverse that process, as a rank-and-file trade unionist he has often spoken out against the ‘education factory’ in the struggles over financial models for both FE and HE.
Why do we need UCU Left Candidates?
UCU has been through a tumultuous year with a rise in industrial action as we rebuild our branches post-lockdown across our sectors. In HE, the strikes and MAB have seen members putting themselves, their families, finances and futures on the line. Members in FE have also fought for action and won, with 32 branches taking strike action in November – hopefully more branches will re-ballot to join them. There is more to build as Adult and Community Education (ACE) has been left out of FE funding promises, and Prison Educators continue to work in deplorable conditions.
However, during this period of intense industrial struggle, members have not only been fighting the employer but also fighting the union leadership to ensure democratic decisions were honoured. Time and again the decisions of UCU members have been overridden or ignored; from the March ‘pause’ in HE action to the silencing of the Higher Education Committee when it voted for the indefinite strike action. Branches felt unsupported in the MAB, which was called off by the General Secretary without reaching agreements on deductions. The recent ‘opt out’ on UK-wide strike action has also exposed many to punitive employers.
This is why UCU Left are standing a candidate. We must have a strong, coherent industrial strategy that respects the democratic processes of this union. But it’s not just about the industrial strategy, we also need to improve our political work.
The union has much work to do to deliver tangible and lasting progress for the decolonisation of our post-16 education system. The scale of work needed is epitomised by Chichester University’s dismissal of Professor Hakim Adi, the first person of African heritage to become a professor of history in the UK. We need to be bolder in championing abortion rights and challenging the ongoing attacks by the government and some academics on trans rights. As Gaza is under siege we cannot afford the slightest equivocation on the issue of Palestine – UCU must continue to support BDS. UCU Left candidates stand for equality and justice, and will commit to tackling these issues.
We have to fundamentally change the way our union and disputes work. Branch Delegate Meetings, Congress and Sector Conferences, and strike committees are not just places for discussions which are then forgotten about when it comes to implementing the decisions members make. We need a new kind of trade unionism where those putting themselves on the line actually take the decisions. Where casualised staff, women, black, migrant and LGBT+ members are at the centre of our fights. And where FE, post-92 universities, prison education, ACE and land based institutions are not an add on to the debate.
We urge you to back Saira and Peter’s campaigns and to help transform our union for good.
The National Executive Committee and Trustees candidates have been agreed and will be announced soon, along with our Election Manifesto.