The cost of striking and the salary of the General Secretary
Striking is expensive. We forgo our pay in the hope the settlement will justify the sacrifice. To be strike ready, we must ensure we can financially support those who stand to suffer the most from any pay deductions our employers try to impose on us. For future industrial action, we need to liberalise UCU’s Fighting Fund, which appears to have been underused in recent times, despite record levels of action and donations.
Just look at the latest budget details: in the 12 months between September 2017 and August 2018, UCU received £429,000 in donations, most of which would have been made by its own members to the Fighting Fund. These donations contributed to a very healthy £2.2mn operating surplus. In total, the Fighting Fund made payments of £1.13mn, and still had £1.4mn in reserve at the end.
This is not good enough, especially when UCU’s overall reserves are a very long way from being in any trouble. When you take member donations out of the equation, UCU did not do nearly enough to support its members who went on strike. UCU can afford to be more proactive and welcoming in encouraging members to draw on the fund, and more responsive in the way the funds are administered.
When people talk about my candidacy, they tend to describe me as the ‘grassroots’ candidate. What does this mean in practice? It doesn’t just mean that I have a large base of support among ordinary UCU members and reps. It doesn’t just mean that I want UCU to be much more supportive in its use of the Fighting Fund. As far as I’m concerned, it also means that I need to walk the walk, by being aware of my own working terms and conditions in relation to yours. If elected, I will ensure that any increase in my salary is no higher than the most recent national pay offer in Further Education—the sector where our union has made least progress in protecting or improving our members’ wages. Furthermore, I will also donate a portion of my salary to the UCU Fighting Fund, and publish the amount donated.
The scale of members’ donations to the Fighting Fund last year is inspiring. It’s a reminder that we all had each other’s backs. If you elect me, you can finally be confident that the same is true of your union, and your General Secretary.