Equality role not gender-specific 1

July 21, 2006

Although we wish to progress issues of equality within the University and College Union and to bring the expertise and enthusiasm of all members to its work, we cannot allow the allegations of members of the former Association of University Teachers' women's committee to go unchallenged ("UCU split over equality brief" and Letters, July 14).

The decision to allocate responsibility for equality issues to Paul Mackney and Roger Kline was taken democratically and in accordance with the processes of the union.

Natfhe, under Mackney's leadership, made equality one of the three central planks of union structure. It forged a tradition of proactive promotion of equality work and of enabling collaborative and complementary work between groups of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups, and disabled and black activists, deliberately eschewing any hierarchy of oppression.

Under Kline, Natfhe's universities department ensured that the equality dimensions of key industrial issues, such as the status of hourly paid staff, became a central consideration in campaigning and negotiation. The trade union movement as a whole looked to Natfhe as an example of innovative and committed leadership in the area of equalities. No one individual can represent equality interests on the basis of who they are; rather, it is competence and achievement that count.

Of course, we do not suggest that Natfhe, Mackney or Kline have all the answers. But in terms of the prioritisation given to equality work, the co-operative working developed between women, LGBT, disabled and black activists, the creation of a dedicated equality unit within the union and the integration of equalities issues into mainstream industrial organisation Natfhe has set a benchmark for the trade union movement. This is the work that we seek to maintain in the UCU. We feel that it is a track record that speaks for itself.

Gargi Bhattacharyya, Bill Gulam, Maeve Landman, Sasha Callaghan, Maureen Henry-Johnson and 35 others UCU

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