Hunt faces rough ride from Left on NEC

March 23, 2007

The new general secretary of the University and College Union faces a tough political challenge in dealing with a national executive dominated by members who did not vote for her, it was claimed this week.

Sally Hunt defeated her nearest rival, Roger Kline, by a narrow majority to become the UCU's first general secretary last Wednesday.

But when the names of members who had been elected to fill the rest of the union's 60 national executive committee posts were announced, it emerged that most had backed Mr Kline.

UCU Left, which pledged to back her rival and was outspoken during the election campaign in its criticism of Ms Hunt's handling of last year's pay dispute, was quick to point out that its members had captured 31 seats on the NEC.

In a statement, UCU Left said its supporters would now have "considerable influence" over the NEC when it is formed with its newly elected members in June.

It said: "To be effective today, a post-16 educational trade union must address the political and economic milieu within which that education takes place. In particular, it must confront the Government's neoliberal and business-dominated agenda."

Sue Blackwell, a UCU Left member who won an NEC seat, said: "We will certainly give the leaders a run for their money."

Bill Gulam, a UCU Left member voted in as an NEC representative for black members, said: "We now have an opportunity to bring to the union a greater commitment to fight to defend our members' employment rights and for more transparency and an affinity with our membership."

But Angie Pears, co-chair of the Oxford Brookes UCU branch, who backed Sally Hunt in the elections, said: "Roger Kline said himself that whoever wins should have the backing of members. Our new leaders will need that."

Ms Hunt commented: "I am very proud that UCU members elected me to lead our new union. My decision-making is always based on what I think is best for members and nothing else."

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