9. MY ROLE AS GENERAL SECRETARY
I don’t want to be a General Secretary you only recognise from an email signature. You will see me in your branch and region, on picket lines, and interacting with members via social media as well as with the press. Part of listening to members means meeting with them. I will establish regular regional and online General Secretary surgeries, where you can come and meet with me and other union officers, tell me about your experiences and worries, and ask me questions.
9.1 Fostering accountability
The role and powers of the General Secretary came under unprecedented scrutiny during the USS strike. This culminated in an embarrassing event for our union. Walkouts and protests at our annual Congress prevented two motions about the General Secretary’s conduct from being debated. Fortunately, this year’s Congress is set to consider rule changes, proposed by the recently established Democracy Commission, which will make the General Secretary more accountable to members. I not only promise to abide by any rule changes agreed by Congress and other relevant parties: I strongly encourage Congress delegates to vote for all of the recommended changes to the GS’s role that have been put forward.
9.2 Making UCU structures accessible
I have already mentioned the barriers to participation which our subscription rates and committee structures raise for many members. Another problem lies in the way we present information to members. Our website is full of valuable research and information, but difficult to navigate. Our bureaucratic procedures confuse and obstruct our members. Compared with other trade unions, we seriously under-use technological innovations like mobile apps and social media. These can be as useful for very serious activities, like confidential harassment reporting, as they are for building solidarity and camaraderie across branches. Staff in our sector keep up to speed with the latest developments in technology and the larger media landscape, and it is time we took advantage of that.
The proposals I have outlined in this document will open up the union to people who have felt excluded, making it more affordable, accessible, and representative of the entire tertiary education workforce. But a manifesto is more than the sum of its parts. I want to engage members in a process: of determining our common goals, discovering and building our capabilities, and realising how much power we have when we translate our shared knowledge and interests into action. Once we truly represent the sector, we can become a union that shapes and directs policy, rather than reacting to it. We need to build forms of solidarity that do not exist yet, across career paths, institutions, sectors, and generations, in defence of public education. Vote for me and with me, to vote for that change.
This manifesto is the product of countless conversations I have had with many people over the last decade. In the course of writing it, I have also benefited from detailed input from friends and colleagues in all sectors of the union. I cannot thank everyone personally for their input, but I would like to give special thanks to my friend Nick Hardy for his assistance with the editing process.