Endorsement from Professor Alana Vincent, University of Chester
Why am I endorsing Jo Grady for UCU General Secretary? Basically every word of her manifesto—but if you don’t have time to read it, let me give you the short(er) version.
It’s no secret to anyone who’s been even vaguely involved in their local branch, or on a picket line, or trying to work to rule, that organising within HE and FE is hard. Those of us who teach are trained to think of what we do as a vocation rather than a job; our passions for our work, our care for our students and colleagues, are turned against us when questions of working conditions and compensation are raised. And our voices are often so loud that administrative and support staff feel like they aren’t really represented by the Union at all. So we’ve got decades of experience not trusting our Union to turn up for us, and not turning up for each other when it counts. And then we collectively moan about why our Union’s bargaining is all a bit shit.
I withdrew from membership of UCU in 2013, following an incident of racial profiling by the Union itself in late 2012, to which neither Sally Hunt nor Helen Carr, who was then National Head of Equality, bothered to respond. I re-joined in 2014 in solidarity with my colleagues who were striking for better pay, but did so with no small degree of discomfort as my personal experience of national leadership was that they were careless of members’ best interests, out of touch with our actual working conditions, and disdainful of the vast expertise which members might bring to support various collective initiatives.
To change that, we need national leadership that looks to members as intelligent actors with something to contribute beyond just our votes and our dues. We need a General Secretary who is actually familiar with the working conditions that we face, with the very real mental and emotional barriers that limit turn-out for particular forms of industrial action, and has the creativity and the will to look for real solutions. Jo Grady is that candidate.