UCU elections
Taking action in higher education

Michael McKrell (University of Central Lancashire)

post-92

Election address

I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Journalism, Media and Performance.

From 2015 to 2017 I had the privilege of serving on the NEC, working on the Recruitment, Organising and Campaigning Committee and the Legal Support Review Panel. During that time, I spoke at rallies in support of branches in dispute and on behalf of our union on a range of local, regional and national campaign issues. I have also held elected office at Branch and Regional level, at my regional TUC and on my local Trades Council.

As Chair of a thriving post-92 branch, I appreciate how members value the hard work of reps who advise and represent them on the issues that concern the most: workload, stress, progression and equality issues. However, reps also need support and training not just in advocacy and negotiating skills, but also in branch building and effective, strategic activism to help build the union's power in the workplace. A review of the reps training programme should therefore be a priority for the union.

Universities are under enormous pressure to promote their 'brand' and enhance their presence (in the form of gleaming new estates) in the global HE 'marketplace', but members are bearing the cost through increased workloads, continued squeeze on pay, threats to decent pensions, and a pervasive'managerialist' culture that deprofessionalizes staff, turning them into 'managers' of lower-graded colleagues on casualised contracts. In the post-92 sector we also seeing attempts to undermine the terms and conditions embodied in the national contract.  

All this saps members' morale, erodes collegiality and subverts the idea of the university as a public asset that serves our regional and local communities, diminishing the social role that underpins many of our universities, economically and culturally.

A strong and united union can successfully resist threats to jobs, defend members' terms and conditions and win greater security for casualised staff. But we must also build broad-based campaigns for more democratic and accountable governance structures in the fight to halt - and even reverse - the marketisation and commodification of HE.

In doing so we must engage as many members as possible, not just seasoned activists, which is why I favour the use of electronic consultations as one way (though not the only way) of gauging members views. As a campaigning union we must also motivate, organise and mobilise members in order to win and retain support for action at grass-roots level.

I believe that if we are united internally and able to build effective alliances across the labour movement, UCU can push back against the vested interests that currently prevail in HE. If you agree, please give me your vote. And please vote Janet Farrar for VP.

 

Last updated: 31 January 2020