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Matt Waddup (UCU National Head of Policy and Campaigns)

29 April 2019

Election address

Why I want to be general secretary
UCU is no ordinary union - we are special. Our members have changed millions of lives through education, including mine.

I messed up school and moved from job to job until signing up for evening classes at the local college. My world was transformed by the committed teachers I had. Without them I would never have considered university, where my horizons were further expanded by brilliant staff. I will always be grateful to all those who helped me including the professional and support staff, often overlooked, who also have a vital role to play.

I have nearly thirty years' trade union experience at a senior level, first in the rail union RMT and now UCU. I believe I have the commitment, skills and experience required to be an effective general secretary and to win a better deal for the profession that has changed my life and the lives of millions like me. 

An effective campaigner
The role of UCU general secretary is important: leading the union; supporting our branches; representing members to employers and politicians; explaining our case in the media; employing more than 200 staff; and managing an annual budget of more than £25m. When our last general secretary Sally Hunt sadly became ill, I was honoured that she asked me to take on her key responsibilities for bargaining, campaigning and organising.

Last year I was attacked by The Daily Mail and The Times for my work in planning and organising the successful USS industrial action campaign. These papers attacked me because I am an effective campaigner who knows how to win. During my time at UCU I have:

  • planned and organised hundreds of successful strikes, including USS;
  • supported branches to deliver record levels of membership - up by 14,000 in the last eighteen months       
  • delivered national campaigns like 'Love our colleges' and 'FE Transforms' which showcase the work of FE and adult education teachers;
  • acted as secretary to the crucial USS Joint Expert Panel ('JEP')
  • overseen our complaint to UNESCO about the UK government's breaches of academic freedom
  • implemented the 'Future of the profession' strategy which made UCU membership free to working postgraduates and FE staff not on a teacher's grade
  • developed UCU policy to challenge TEF, REF, reform student admissions; and been appointed as a Lifelong Learning Commissioner for the Labour Party

A union that stands up to be counted
UCU has lots to be proud of. Our brilliant reps help tens of thousands of members every year; our campaigning on FE pay is delivering gains in England and Wales despite the government cuts; our work on transparency and accountability has led to government legislation in Scotland and uncovered the scale of pay inequality in our institutions; our USS action showed we can be a force to be reckoned within HE; and our membership is now at an historic high.

However, our union faces great challenges to which we need a strategic response.

In FE and HE, marketisation and managerialism have created a crisis for which staff and students are paying.  The intensification of competition; savage cuts to FE; imposition of one metric driven initiative after another in HE; attacks on academic freedom; and the breakdown in democratic governance - all implemented under the shadow of a political austerity - have had disastrous consequences.

Staff pay has been held down, workload has intensified, casualisation has become endemic and performance management has become the norm. Too often, failings by those who manage the sector lead to the loss of jobs of those who work at the chalk face. The risks now posed by the government's disastrous handling of Brexit intensify the insecurity many members now feel still further.

The truth is that the exploitative employment model which sits at the heart of  HE and FE must be challenged - and if not by UCU, then by who?

To win we need a new plan the whole union can unite around. Simply pressing the repeat button will not be enough and will see us unable to act to defend each other. My starting point is that to unite our union we must listen to you - our members - so we clearly understand your priorities.

My vision for UCU: prepare properly; strike hard if necessary
The union needs clear, unifying negotiating objectives not vague aspirations. My priority would be to reach agreements with employers that:

  • deliver higher salaries and fairer progression for all
  • address our equality concerns including the gender and ethnicity pay gaps across post-16 education
  • establish transparent employment, development and progression rights for early career staff
  • tackle the unmanageable workloads and unrealistic expectations currently faced by many staff
  • maintain the professional status of academic related staff and defend their jobs
  • make sure all teachers in FE and Adult Education are paid the proper rate and close the appalling pay gap with school teachers, manage teaching hours to avoid overload
  • ensure our Prison Educators are safe at work as well as properly rewarded
  • protect members' pension benefits whether in USS where we may need to take action again or TPS where increased employer costs imposed by government threaten both jobs and benefits
  • provide a better deal for international staff including support with visa, health and other transfer costs so our colleagues feel wanted rather than unwelcome

The USS campaign shows the way. Members, branches and UCU staff worked together to beat back a proposal to take away our guaranteed pensions. The point is that if we want USS style victories, we need a USS style plan and USS style unity of purpose. 

If elected I will shift the union towards a more strategic approach to bargaining by:

  • consulting with members,
  • planning our campaign properly;
  • communicating clearly;
  • investingin our branches and staff so activists have the local resources and back-up to bargain effectively and defend members.
  • prioritising pro-active action on workload, casualisation, pay and equality concerns where and how it will be most effective;
  • striking hard when we need to

Support from across the union
I am an independent candidate who is proud to have the support of a diverse group of brilliant campaigners from across the union. 

People like anti-managerialism activist Liz Morrish, governance campaigner Michael Carley, Pensions expert Mike Otsuka, and adult education champion Mel Stouph are backing me because they want UCU to have a clear strategy and they believe I can deliver it.

UCU Branch Officer Keith Simpson who has known me through nearly thirty years with RMT and UCU says: "Matt has a plan to unite the union around our shared values and priorities and to fully involve members in what we do."

Unity is our only option
This is a critical time in HE and FE. I believe we all have a responsibility to challenge marketisation and managerialism, to stick together and support each other as we fight back.

When we allow ourselves to be divided only the employers gain. When we stand united, UCU is a force to be reckoned with.

Unite to win. Please vote Matt Waddup.


Twitter: @mattwucu


Last updated: 29 April 2019