By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2895

Keep building struggle after UCU general secretary re-elected

Political and economic issues need to be tackled together
Issue 2895
Saira Weiner, left candidate in UCU general secretary election, with a Palestine flag

Saira Weiner made sure Palestine was discussed throughout the UCU election campaign

Jo Grady has been re-elected as general secretary of the UCU union, but only just and without any real endorsement from the members. She has no strong mandate for her positions.

Grady took 5,990 votes on the first count. Second was Ewan McGaughey with 4,724, Vicky Blake had 3,837 votes and Saira Weiner 2,580.

After transfers, Grady beat McGaughey by fewer than 200 votes.

Saira Weiner’s 15 percent of the vote was a good performance for a candidate who put an uncompromising position of support—and action—for Palestine at the heart of her campaign.

She also raised demands for more participation and democracy in the union and the need to launch harder-hitting strikes to beat college and university bosses.

Saira’s campaign changed the mood inside the union and, for example, played a big role in the UCU telling members to organise protests for Palestine on the 7 February day of action.

McGaughey, a law professor, said he stood for “fair pay, democracy, equality, a living planet, free public education, and that our union needs a fundamental change to improve our members’ lives”.

He was critical of Grady and came across to some as a “sensible” and “realistic” choice to replace her. His plea, for example, to boost the legal department seemed to some voters as a lot easier than the hardships of strikes and protests.

But such tactics won’t win.

Blake, the “soft left” candidate, tried to balance between Grady and the anger of activists, a line that satisfied nobody. And she connived with imperialism over arms to Ukraine and cooperation with Zionists.

The turnout for the election—15 percent—was down from over 20 percent in 2019.

The lack of enthusiasm for Grady follows from her role in effectively sabotaging disputes and blunting union democracy.

Members of the union who voted for Saira, or agree with the need for fundamental change should continue to fight for solidarity with Palestine, escalated resistance over pay, redundancies, equalities, workload, pensions and proper contracts.

The best follow-up to the vote would be big and militant actions on Friday, 8 March, International Women’s Day, for the workplace day of action for Palestine.

Together with more student occupations, that could build the confidence of grassroots networks to tackle other issues. And then on Saturday 9 March UCU members need to be at the national Palestine demonstrations in London and in Scotland and Wales.

The political and the economic are coming together. For example, there’s a student occupation over Palestine at Goldsmiths, University of London. And at the same time, UCU members there have just begun a strike ballot over plans to cull 130 jobs as part of management’s “transformation programme”.

Both struggles matter and can feed into each other.

  • Full general secretary results here
  • National executive election results are expected on Tuesday. UCU Left analysis will be posted here 

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance
One-off