I want top job, say both union leaders

December 9, 2005

The leaders of the soon-to-be merged Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe confirmed this week that they will contest the top job in the new higher education super-union.

After last week's resounding votes in favour of merging the two unions to create the 116,000-member University and College Union, both Sally Hunt, the AUT general secretary, and Paul Mackney, her Natfhe counterpart, have made clear that they want to be in charge.

There had been speculation that Mr Mackney, who suffered a heart attack earlier this year and who is still working only part time, would not be able to stand. But Mr Mackney told The Times Higher : "We have both made clear that we are standing. We have a big job to do before the elections for general secretary to make sure that we do end up with something better than we had."

The general secretaries, who have worked closely on merger, say there are few political differences between them. But Mr Mackney joked that the "mutual generosity" that has carried them through often difficult merger talks was yet to be extended to the race for the general secretary's post.

On politics, Mr Mackney would say only: "There's no real difference between us, except that I'm a child of the 1960s and Sally is a child of I don't know what decade.

"The AUT reflects the culture of the old universities, and we reflect the technical vocational culture. But there is vocationalism in medicine, dentistry and law, and in five years people will not remember the differences."

Ms Hunt said: "The position of general secretary of the new union will be a hugely challenging and exciting role, and one I would love to do."

In the merger ballot, a third of Natfhe's 68,000 members voted, and 21,664 (95.7 per cent) of them backed the merger. Of the AUT's 48,000 members from old universities, 17,748 voted (a turnout of 37 per cent), and 14,047 (79.2 per cent) said "yes" to the merger.

The two unions will formally become one in June 2006. The election for general secretary will be held in early 2007 so the winner can be in place by June that year.

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