Email sent by Dr Claire Marris (City, University of London), Friday 31 July 2020

Dear Colleague,

We are writing to urge you to vote for Gareth Brown in the elections for the next UCU Vice President that opened this week. This is a very important election and Gareth is in our opinion by far the best candidate for the job. He has a wealth of experience in activist movements outside of academia and has led successful negotiations with university leadership at his local branch at Leicester University. You can find out more about Gareth Brown and what he stands for here: https://gareth4vp.org

Please circulate this information to colleagues whom you believe want to see Jo Grady’s General Secretary election manifesto realised. Feel free to forward this email or adapt it for your own use. It has also been posted on the Grady4GS website here.

Information about the election, including the list of all the candidates and their election addresses, is on the UCU website here. Postal ballots were sent out on 28 July and the election will close on 15 September. The papers will normally be sent to your home address. If you don’t receive them you will be able to request a duplicate after 6 August here.  

This election uses a single transferable voting system. You should rank candidates in order of preference and you can vote for as many candidates as you wish. If there are candidates who you do not want elected, you should not list them at all. Vote #1 for Gareth – don’t use a cross!

Grady4GS: An update on the story so far

The election of Jo Grady as General Secretary in May 2019 energised many UCU members and shifted their expectations of how the union could be run in ways that represented them better. In the wake of that election, 14 members who are broadly supportive of Jo Grady’s GS election manifesto stood for election to the National Executive Committee in 2020 and 8 of these were elected. All 8 are from the HE sector so they automatically also sit on the HEC. Thank you so much to those of you who voted and helped campaign for us! 

The election of these 8 candidates means that neither of the established factions (IBL and UCUL) have an outright majority on the NEC or HEC anymore. The new members only took their seats in June but we have already seen some shift in the dynamics of these committees. However, without a strong and competent Chair, these meetings will fail to represent members as well as they could. See here for one of our team’s first-hand accounts of his experiences of NEC and HEC meetings: https://medium.com/david-harvie.

An important reason to support Gareth is that he will, along with these newly elected candidates, campaign for more transparency at the NEC so that members can see for themselves what their representatives are up to. See here for a report about NEC transparency produced by some of the new NEC candidates (there was not enough time for this to be discussed at the NEC meeting in June but it is on the agenda for the next meeting in October): https://medium.com/david-harvie/proposals-for-ucu-accountability-and-transparency-283add54fb32

Why—you may ask—do UCU members elect a Vice-President (VP) each year, but never a President?

In fact, when you vote for a VP, you’re voting for the person who will become our union’s President. UCU has a 4-strong presidential team, including Vice-President, President-Elect, President, and Immediate Past President. Each person elected as VP subsequently moves through these roles. This election is slightly different as it’s a by-election caused by the tragic death of Nita Sanghera. Whoever is elected will become President in 2023–24, having spent two years as Vice-President and one as President-Elect, but there will be no final year as Immediate Past President. As President, the elected officer will chair UCU’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and its Congress, which is the supreme sovereign body of the union.

The presidential team between them undertake several crucial roles in the union. These include: taking part in negotiations with employers; chairing UCU’s committees and conferences; and briefing members on current issues. Whoever becomes Vice-President after this election will thus sit alongside our elected negotiators attempting to broker a better deal with employers in our present USS and ‘Four Fights’ disputes, and any future disputes.

The person who wins this election will immediately become the Chair of UCU’s Higher Education Committee (HEC), which decides strategy in industrial disputes for the HE sector, and of our union’s annual Higher Education Sector Conference (HESC), which has a sovereign role in agreeing policy. An HESC will take place in the autumn to decide on a plan of action following the results on the consultation ballot on the Four Fights dispute announced on 29 July, that was to reject the UCEA offer (61% reject on a 30% turnout).

Please share this information widely!

We need your help to publicise this VP election and encourage people to vote, because low election turnouts benefit the established factions. Voter turnout for UCU’s annual NEC and Officer elections has been between 9-13% in the past few years. For the GS election, your campaigning increased the turnout from 13.7% in 2017 to 20.5% in 2019! Social media played an important role, but what really made a difference was the actions of hundreds of members like you all around the nation speaking to colleagues about the importance of voting and what is at stake for our union, putting posters up, distributing leaflets, and wearing the Grady4GS badge. 

If each member of this email list can get 15 members to vote who would not have voted otherwise, this will make a huge difference. In these socially-distanced times, the most effective way to do this will probably be to forward this email to colleagues with a personal note. If you use social media, please share the message there too and let your followers know if you are endorsing Gareth (@Gareth_S_Brown on Twitter), using the hashtag #Gareth4VP. Photos of animals usually get a lot of traction so if you are able we suggest you post a photo of your pet with your completed ballot paper showing you voted Gareth number 1.

Let’s continue to build a better union together!

The Gareth4VP campaign team
(Jo Edge, Chris Grocott, David Harvie, Claire Marris, Leon Rocha)

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