The headline of your article “Sally Hunt clings on as UCU leader as congress curtailed” (News, 1 June) is lazy and sensationalist. Hunt is not clinging on as general secretary of the union. She has the majority support of the University and College Union membership, as shown by the members’ ballot in April, in which more than 60 per cent of those who voted demonstrated that they supported her by voting in favour of her arguments for pausing strike action over pensions in favour of negotiations.
What happened at the UCU congress was that the delegates, consisting of the usual majority of members of UCU Left, a group that is in no way representative of union membership as a whole, tried to stage a coup to unseat her and failed. Had they succeeded, it would have amounted to a UCU Left takeover of the union, which would have been disastrous for its members.
Of course, those who attempted the failed coup are furious, as they were when members rejected their pleas to carry on striking over pensions, accepting instead that sufficient progress had been made for any further action to be put on hold.
The fact is that UCU members in their majority are savvy enough to distinguish between “action” seen as some kind of political consciousness raiser, which is what UCU Left is about, and action that is useful and necessary to defend members’ pay and conditions. It is this latter approach that Hunt, in her role as UCU leader, is clearly seeking to pursue and indeed is right to pursue, since it represents the broad interests of her members. And in that she has the broad support of those members and thus can hardly be described as “clinging on”.
Can it be a breach of someone’s employment rights to ask them to resign, as a motion at the UCU congress attempted to do in the case of Sally Hunt? As a lifelong trade unionist, I don’t think so. Anyone can ask someone to resign, but they can always refuse to. Anyway, the UCU conference is not an employer, so technically they are not in dispute, as they claim.
In withdrawing cooperation from the congress, Unite acted disingenuously, and I say that as a former steward, activist and employee. Sally Hunt is hiding behind her staff.