Help us reclaim and reunite our union

January 13, 2011

The University and College Union's national executive committee (NEC) is indeed split ("UCU in turmoil as its Left wing looks to make bid for control", 6 January), but the issue is more than just support for specific protests on tuition fees.

A meeting of the NEC was requisitioned for 17 December, at short notice, by members of UCU Left, which has close links to the Socialist Workers Party. Almost half the elected NEC members were forced to give apologies due to the weather, immovable work commitments or the short notice. The main business was a motion calling for the UCU to support a demonstration organised by the Education Activist Network (EAN) - an organisation closely tied to the SWP - in London on 29 January, in addition to an already-planned Trades Union Congress national demonstration in Manchester on the same day, to which the UCU was committed. The initial motion also proposed a takeover of the day-to-day management of the campaign by certain NEC members, rather than entrusting it to the UCU staff and officials employed to do the job, an issue that your piece correctly identifies as causing serious concern to UCU staff.

Given the absence of nearly all Broad Left NEC members, and the large numbers of London-based UCU Left members present, the motion was carried, but not without last-minute amendments to the original motion, presumably prompted by the complaints of UCU staff, proposed from within the ranks of UCU Left itself.

On several occasions, UCU Left has pushed for the union to take positions that seem much more about promoting the ever-changing policies of the SWP rather than serving the interests of this union. And that is the really big issue - is the UCU going to be run and controlled by a grouping under the sway of a political party, continually allying with, and affiliating to, front organisations; or is it going to be run by its elected officers and staff and governed by elected representatives who try their honest best to represent the views of the membership, without being tied to the positions of minor political parties and front organisations?

The message to ordinary members is clear - get involved, make sure you vote in all elections and help us reclaim our union. The UCU faces major industrial battles on the vital issues of pensions and jobs. We cannot afford to be distracted by divisive sectarian posturing.

Alan Carr, national treasurer, Simon Renton, national negotiator, and 12 other members of the UCU NEC.

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