Members first, not factions

April 5, 2012

Regarding "No mandate for change" (Letters, 22 March): we are the current and next chairs of the University and College Union's further education committee and the chair of its higher education committee; we are also the union's next three national presidents. We each have many years of trades union experience and understand that difficult times lie ahead for UCU members. We believe that we must act decisively and quickly to ensure that our union is designed and equipped for the tasks it will have to carry out in the future.

We do not agree with Sally Hunt, the UCU general secretary, about everything, but we do share her view that our union must evolve to meet the challenges it faces. Members have the right to expect that we will target our finite resources on supporting them directly, rather than on byzantine internal structures that are far more extensive and complex than those of comparable unions. We believe that a smaller national executive committee can more effectively carry out its functions and remit while at the same time continuing to meet its commitments to equality and diversity. We also believe that the union will be stronger when we build more direct links between members and those who make the decisions on their behalf. That means empowering members; strengthening branches; making regional structures more representative and effective; and building an NEC that is focused on our core agenda - supporting our members on the work issues that affect them every day.

The general secretary won 73 per cent of the vote in the UCU's recent elections on a reform manifesto, and many of those recently elected to the NEC have declared their determination to place members' needs above any other consideration. We believe the union now has an opportunity to escape the faction-driven internal conflicts that have plagued it in recent years and have prevented us from providing the support that the outstanding work of our branches and activists deserves.

Whatever the result of the members' ballot on the general secretary's proposals for reform, we are keen to work with everyone within the UCU who is prepared to prioritise the needs of our members and build a democratic, independent union.

Kathy Taylor, vice-president, further education and next president, John McCormack, elected vice-president, further education, Simon Renton, vice-president, higher education, University and College Union

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