Pay deal not politics

August 4, 2006

The most striking thing about your page of comments on the recent pay dispute (Opinion, July 28) was not the views expressed, which probably represent a fair cross-section of what people in universities think about the issue, but the fact that the majority of your correspondents were anonymous. What does this say about the attitude of university staff to academic freedom and, indeed, to free speech?

This fear of public expression begins to explain how the media, including The Times Higher , believed that the outcome of the pay ballot was on a knife edge, when all of us with half an ear to the ground knew the "yeses" were going to be in a large majority.

The fact is that those shouting the loudest and briefing the media were going to be against virtually any deal because their purpose isn't the union aim of maintaining and improving pay and working conditions in the sector but a host of other things making up an agenda that isn't a legitimate trade union one at all but a wide ranging political one.

An example of this is the University and College Union website, which carries material encouraging its members to participate in the activities of the Stop the War Coalition.

If UCU's members wish the the union to be not a political instrument of the few but an effective proponent of its core purpose of fighting for the pay and conditions of its members, then it is not timidity that is required but participation and interest in its activities and its direction by a much larger number of them.

Howard Moss
Swansea University

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