Even before nominations open for the general secretary position in the newly merged Universities and College Union (UCU), the election campaign is underway.
The main candidates are Roger Kline (former Natfhe and now UCU head of equality and employment rights), Sally Hunt (ex general secretary of the AUT and joint general secretary of UCU), and Peter Jones, a well known Natfhe activist.
The choice of general secretary will shape the future of the new union. It will affect wider political issues such as the academic boycott of Israel and the union’s support for organisations such as the Stop the War Coalition.
The recent battle by university lecturers for a decent standard of pay has shown the possible strength of the new union. It has also shown the need for a leadership willing to fight.
That is why Socialist Worker is supporting Roger Kline in his bid. During the 15 month dispute at London Metropolitan University over pay and conditions, Roger showed his willingness to fight.
As one lecturer put it, “Union officials are renowned for selling out the membership. Roger threw resources at the dispute, as well as his personal time and effort.”
The new union has to fight not only for the working rights of its members, but on wider political issues.
Roger Kline says on his website, “I regard trade union activity as seeking to influence events beyond the workplace and being influenced by events beyond the workplace.” He has consistently campaigned against war, privatisation and inequality.
It is vital that UCU members across the country begin to organise discussions and hustings with the three candidates.
Alongside the general secretary election will be the elections for the new national executive committee - and it is vital that the left organises a strong challenge.
The UCU Left conference at the end of November is an opportunity to launch the left’s electoral challenge in the union. This is a battle for the heart and soul of the new union. Every UCU activist needs to throw themselves into the fight.
Last week management at the Institute of Education, part of Manchester Metropolitan University, conceded to the demands made by UCU members in response to a staffing crisis created by managament.
Funding has been released to employ hourly-paid lecturers immediately with permanent staff to be employed as early as possible.