What to do about UCU dysfunction?

  • Voting. We are currently electing a VP from the HE sector and a casual vacancy for the LGBT+ FE spot until next year’s Congress. The LGBT+ rep will come up for election again in the regular elections at the end of this year — both candidates are trans-inclusive reps actively engaged with their roles on the LGBT+ members committee (as am I). Each would bring different priorities and approaches to the role, but I think both would do a good job. I’m sure we will continue to all work together for LGBT+ members regardless of the outcome. The VP will be in post until becoming President in 2023–24, so will help shape the direction of the union for the next few years. I’ll have more to say about the VP elections after this week’s live online hustings (check your Friday email for details of how to join them, or you can see my live tweeting of the Yorkshire & Humber hosted hustings held on August 4), but in my view there are four serious VP candidates and one completely un-serious one, reflecting a range of politics and priorities in the union.** Read the statements, check out the platforms and exercise your vote.
  • Communicating. UCU social media is a bin fire dominated by many of the usual voices spouting factional spin. Many members rightly tune out — I often wish I could. But you can also communicate your views in other ways. Move a motion at your local branch. If your branch is undemocratic and doesn’t have meetings (an all too common problem in many branches), get a few of your local UCU members in your department together and demand a meeting. Model branch rules provide a mechanism for you to do so — it only takes 1/20th of membership or 25 members (whichever is least). Failing that, reach out to your elected reps to tell them what you think — my role covers the UK as a whole, but there are those who represent regional, national, or other groups. At the moment, there is no central way to communicate with your reps (which is a disgrace), but for those in HE at least you can usually find an email online via your rep’s employer. One of my priorities this year is to make it much easier for members to contact their representatives, and also to find out how they’ve voted.
  • Step up to a role. While running for elected roles can be intimidating, particularly if you’ve read the above (sorry!), there are lots of other ways to get involved. Get your branch to nominate you as a Congress delegate or for one of the upcoming special sector conferences (mechanisms for how that happen are also in rules). Or perhaps if you don’t want to witness a shitshow, come along to the equality groups conferences later in the year (dates not yet publicly announced) if you’re a woman, LGBT+, disabled, Black or migrant member. Those conferences elect representative committees. On some committees spots are rarely contested but are a great way to begin to get involved in union work and influence the direction in key equality areas. In my experience of LGBT+ committee, we also are much less factionalised and people tend to just get on with what needs to be done.




Queer, migrant, trade unionist. I’m a member of the UCU NEC and LGBT+ Committee. Day job is a modern historian, mostly of Japan.

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Mark Pendleton

Mark Pendleton

Queer, migrant, trade unionist. I’m a member of the UCU NEC and LGBT+ Committee. Day job is a modern historian, mostly of Japan.

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