Time to learn lessons

January 19, 2007

Sally Hunt's statements about the pay dispute continue to miss the point ("Hustings brings out anger over pay dispute", January 12). It is a shame that she is unwilling to learn any lessons about the conduct of the campaign.

I was a national negotiator for lecturers' union Natfhe, and my concern is not so much what happened at the very end, but why we ended up in such a weak position. Both unions started with magnificent support from members, so we need to ask why so many feel so let down.

We were supposed to be running a joint campaign with a sister union with whom we were about to merge. Why, then, was our request to have a joint meeting of elected representatives to plan the campaign refused point-blank?

Why was Association of University Teachers' policy announced with little or no consultation with Natfhe negotiators? Why was a symbolic lifting of our action, even for three hours to allow talks to take place after Easter, refused as a matter of principle?

These failings led to us having different forms of action, to us failing to negotiate at the optimum time and to the action continuing to a point where many members no longer fully supported it.

Although we are now one union, unless we put those attitudes behind us we will make the same mistakes next time.

Neil Williamson. UCU national executive.

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