Not by bread alone

November 10, 2011

If last week's editorial meant to reaffirm the centrality of bread-and-butter issues in the University and College Union's remit, I would second it ("Bread, not political poses", 3 November). However, if it meant to assert that UCU members should not express an interest in developments beyond the UK, then I would disagree.

Political motions at the union's annual congress have been endorsed by an overwhelming majority of delegates because they recognise that support for trade unionists in Colombia, gay men in Uganda and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza is neither gratuitous nor posturing. Indeed, this solidarity figures prominently in what the UCU rightly stands for.

Yes, it is self-evident that pay, jobs, workloads, pensions and numerous professional issues represent the union's priorities. But as educators, one would expect UCU members to lead by example. Students in my politics lectures and seminars, for example, are sensitised to the meaning of democracy and human rights.

I am proud that my union takes principled positions on issues that cannot be described as "bread and butter" but nevertheless help to define the UCU's remit.

Ronald Mendel, Senior lecturer in sociology and politics, University of Northampton

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