Sally Hunt, general secretary of the lecturers’ UCU union, has begun a survey of members over constitutional changes to the union.
The survey reflects a serious debate about what kind of democracy there should be in the union. Hunt wants to move away from the present debate at branches, regions and congress, towards rule by plebiscite—individual votes influenced by the media instead of democratic discussion.
An e-poll, which was sent to UCU members this week, puts forward three proposals.
- to shrink the size of the union’s national executive committee (NEC)
- to elect national negotiators in a members’ ballot
- to put all final offers to a members’ ballot.
The UCU Left, which Socialist Workers Party members are part of, is arguing for a no vote on all three.
Hunt claims these changes will improve democracy in the union.
But many activists argue that e-polls are not a democratic way to conduct debate within the union.
The survey itself, where Hunt’s position is put forward with no alternative one, illustrates the problem.
Little detail has been given to members about the plans and no specific proposals discussed. This means that it is unclear what the implications of the proposals are.
Cutting the size of the NEC could threaten the representation of black and ethnic minority members, disabled members and women.
Balloting on every offer that the government or employers declare as “final” could derail struggle. It would also mean the union would not make any recommendation on offers.