The left has achieved remarkable success in the national executive elections for the lecturers’ union, UCU.
The UCU Left broad-left grouping of university and college teachers won 30 of the 68 seats on the national executive (NEC).
The left won 16 seats in the further education sector, and another 14 in the higher education sector of the union.
Our elected candidates are truly representative of the make up of our union – 17 are leading women activists.
We also won national seats allocated for black members, LGBT members, women in FE, women in HE, and members with disabilities.
Our first preference vote was particularly impressive. In the further education sector we received 64 percent, while in higher education we received 56 percent.
Our candidate, Sasha Callaghan, won the vice-presidency of the union and is now “President Elect”.
However, these results, as impressive as they are, should not blind us to the reality of the worryingly low turnout.
No more than 14 percent of the UCU membership voted in either the general secretary election or the NEC ballot.
This means some 100,000 members did not feel their vote would affect the reality of the daily battles they face at work.
Lecturers are facing redundancy threats, increasing workloads, a lack of permanent contracts. And we are fighting the increasing threat of privatisation in colleges and universities.
It has been suggested that the low turnout is solely down to the complexity of the ridiculous length of the ballot papers. This will have had some effect. However, the real cause is the disenchantment with the previous union leadership.
Last summer members in higher education fought hard to win a decent pay rise but saw the opportunity to beat the employers squandered by poor leadership. Since then management has been attempting to claw back even those modest gains.
In further education our members have had years of poor “national” pay deals that have not even been implemented by many colleges.
Today adult education is being decimated and there is a serious attack on Esol, the teaching of English as a second language.
The need to re-engage those members who feel disaffected is a crucial challenge facing UCU in general, and the new UCU Left NEC members in particular.
We have to offer an accountable and democratic leadership and give a lead in resisting attacks on education provision.
We need to make common cause with our students.
The 1,000-strong lobby of parliament earlier this month in defence of Esol included staff and students – we should repeat this on a bigger scale.
National support should also be given to local fights, such as the campaign to defend jobs and provision at Dundee university.
We need to reassert that education is a public right not a private privilege.
UCU Left will therefore work towards providing an effective and responsive campaigning leadership.
We believe that only action from rank and file members, backed by industrial action where appropriate, can reverse attacks on jobs, on conditions, and on education in general.
For the full details of elected candidates go to www.uculeft.org