Save fight for real enemies

February 10, 2011

The University and College Union is not running five ballots for fun ("Invasion of the union snatchers" 3 February). Defence of pensions, jobs and conditions is what the UCU is for. Some employers are seeking to get action ruled unlawful, while activists across the union are explaining how the campaign can be won against a government that is without a mandate and is on the back foot because of student resistance.

This is the worst time for factionalism in the UCU. Political disagreement over strategy is as inevitable as it is healthy in a democratic organisation. It exists in every trade union. "Factionalism", however, arises not from organised debate but from prioritising factional interests over members' policy decisions and from pursuing intrigue for positional advantage. Unfortunately, the latter is what the current "red-baiting" campaign is about - unprincipled electioneering by a faction. There is no plot by the Left to "take over" the UCU.

What the UCU needs now is campaigning unity to maximise turnout and to secure "yes" votes in all the ballots. Its internal elections should be fought on policy differences and candidates' records, not on political prejudice. Vigorous debate over policy is desirable, but we should reserve our fighting spirit and vitriol for our real enemies.

Liz Lawrence, national executive committee member and higher education national negotiator, and Tom Hickey, NEC member and chair of campaigns committee University and College Union.

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