Will minority voice speak for UCU? 1

January 26, 2007

Sally Hunt's campaigning piece (Opinion, January 19) only touches on the main battle that will be fought in the coming University and College Union elections.

It is true, as she says, that the essential things a higher education union should be doing are safeguarding and improving its members'

pay and conditions and working to keep higher education activities independent from outside interference, whether by government or by the private sector.

But the UCU can do this only if it is led by people who have those aims and there is a real danger that member apathy in the elections could lead to the union being taken over by people with a quite different perspective.

Hunt does allude to this danger, but she should have taken the plunge and made it absolutely clear that these people have, in traditional Trotskyist fashion, not only little real interest in the bread-and-butter issues of a union but also regard it as a vital tool for pursuing their own political goals, which are far removed from the purposes of a trade union and the aspirations of its members. So, for example, they wish industrial action to continue long after it is useful or has wide support on account of some supposed "radicalising" effect it has, and they wish the union to spend its time and resources on particular political causes that they support (such as an Israel boycott).

Their views of what the UCU should be doing are shared by only a tiny fraction of its members. Yet if, as often happens, many members fail to use their vote next month, they may find themselves led by an entirely unrepresentative minority who, as Hunt puts it, "mimic parties... on the political fringes" and are anythingbut "the voice of the profession".

Howard Moss
University of Wales Swansea

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