Speak for everyone? 2

December 8, 2006

As a delegate at the UCU's higher education consultation conference, I can confirm that the meeting did indeed give the leadership a pummelling over its handling of this year's pay campaign. In doing so, however, it in no way represented the view of the union's broad membership.

I wondered to what extent - if at all - most of the "activists" present at this conference, largely local presidents and secretaries, had listened to or consulted their members. If they had, they would have heard views different from their own and far more consonant with the outcome of the pay ballot, where 70 per cent voted in favour of the deal negotiated by the leadership and clearly did not consider it "derisory". They would have known that the membership was against prolonged industrial action (which nearly always fails) and, indeed, that at least half the members were not prepared to take any action at all.

As I looked around, I also wondered how many of them were among those who, in the run-up to the ballot, had insisted against all the evidence that the members would reject the deal? My conclusion was that a good many were, since time and again speakers talked as though that 70 per cent verdict hadn't happened and generally showed no signs of being prepared to listen to their members and democratically represent them.

This augurs badly. Is the newly merged union going to be dominated by local leaders who, for their own reasons - perhaps among them personal political agendas - will care nothing for the majority will of their members?

Howard Moss
Swansea University UCU

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