Below is the text of the first of four emails which I am entitled to send to all members of UCU as one of the candidates in the General Secretary election. It is scheduled to be sent on Monday 29 April. It is identical to the email which will appear in members’ inboxes, except that full-text links to websites have been replaced with embedded ones.
My name is Jo Grady and I’m running to be UCU General Secretary. This election is a historic opportunity to transform UCU into a force for positive change in education, and I am the candidate to do this. You can find my election address here, and my manifesto here. But before I discuss my platform, I want to explain why this election matters.
The General Secretary is an important figure in the union. They are the only officer who is elected by members and works for the union full-time. They shape the union’s strategy by implementing policies passed by UCU Congress. But to me, the role is more than that. I don’t want to be a name you only recognise from emails. You’ll see from my manifesto that I want to establish regular ways to meet and listen to members.
Turnout is usually low in GS elections. We need to ensure that’s not the case this time. Voting is probably the most important thing you can do as a UCU member in the next five years. This is a crucial moment for our union, with the sector under a lot of pressure. You have a rare opportunity to vote for someone who works in the sector, understands what that pressure is like, and is an industrial relations expert.
If elected, I will be UCU’s first General Secretary with first-hand experience both of the world of trade unions and of the tertiary education sector. I am a Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations at the University of Sheffield, where I teach and research pensions; employment regulation; trade union organising and industrial action; and causes of labour market inequalities. In UCU, I have served for years as a branch rep and committee member. On a national level, I have served on the USS National Dispute Committee, and was recently elected to the National Executive Committee. I have over a decade of experience of UCU, of trade unions in general, and, most importantly, of what it is like to work in teaching, research, and administration in this sector.
Since I announced my candidacy I’ve had messages of support from across the UCU membership. I was nominated by hundreds of ordinary members like you. As an independent candidate not supported by any faction, my expenses are funded by individual donations. In my previous two elections to national posts, I stood as the only non-aligned candidate and was elected above other candidates with widespread support.
I want to open up spaces for all members, not just activists, to participate in and shape the union—however much or how little of their time they are able to commit to it. I am particularly keen to find ways to increase membership and participation among FE members, low paid, migrant, BME and disabled staff, and those without secure employment. My manifesto shows how we can do this, from comprehensive reform of UCU’s subscription rates, to the creation of special ‘task groups’ that make the most of members’ expertise and experience.
I am determined to rebuild the union so that we can launch effective campaigns on the issues that shape the day-to-day experience of staff in Higher and Further Education—not just press releases, reports, and web pages. These issues include the fight against the Hostile Environment and Brexit-related immigration controls; the imposition of irresponsible metrics such as the TEF; and the lack of job security for staff in all sectors.
I’ll be sending more emails during the ballot period, sharing my ideas about how to do this. If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to my mailing list. But the most important thing you can do in this election is vote.
The ballot runs from 29 April to 23 May. You will receive your ballot papers by post and you need to return them by post: you cannot vote online. Because there are three candidates running, rather than two (as in the last two GS elections), the ballot will operate on a Single Transferable Vote basis: you can indicate an order of preference, rather than picking one candidate.
A career in education is more than just a job, and education is not a commodity. Use your vote in this election so we can become a union that shapes policy, rather than reacting to it, and fights for public education. Vote for me.
Dr Jo Grady