Let Sally speak for us

July 14, 2006

Women make up almost half of the new University and College Union.

Former Association of University Teachers members voted on a merger document that showed Sally Hunt as having lead responsibility for equality matters in the new union. We wish to express our disappointment at finding that the UCU's officers of the transitional executive have passed this role on to two male officials.

It is possible that women may see this as part of the jockeying for position that surrounds the impending election for general secretary and, like us, will be saddened by the idea that equalities issues are being used in this way.

We do not question whether the male officials are capable and committed. But we believe that Hunt has a track record within the union movement of progressing issues that disproportionately affect women, and has the rare ability to persuade male colleagues that these issues are also important to them. She raises the profile of women by her actions and her beliefs, and is an outstanding role model in a world that - in higher education and trade unions - has too few women in senior positions.

The message we are getting does not bode well for gender issues in the UCU and we find it hard to reconcile it with our right as women to autonomous self-organisation and to choose our own leaders.

If the decision really had been taken on the basis of the interests of our members, rather than for any other reason, would Hunt still be looking after equalities in UCU? We sincerely hope that she will continue to campaign on women's and equality issues, and that the voices of our thousands of women members will still have the advantage of being heard through this principled and skilled advocate.

Jean Harrison, June Payne, Linda Newman, Fionnghuala Sweeney, Anne-Marie Green, Marion Hersh, Irene Orr and Christabel Kynch Former AUT Women's Committee members

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