Boycott Leicester

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Dr Joanne Edge (University of Manchester)

Election address

Dr. Joanne Edge, Manuscripts Cataloguer, University of Manchester

I write this in the knowledge that I might be unemployed by the time voting opens in January. I am an early-career historian nearing the end of my second fixed-term role since finishing my PhD in 2014. I joined UCU just before the 2018 strikes, and was inspired by the mobilisation and optimism that I saw. So, I haven't been a member of UCU for that long. I haven't even had much involvement at branch level: I joined during the final months of my first postdoc, and since moving to Manchester I have been juggling living in two cities. My experience is typical for members of the academic precariat.

My relatively recent membership of the union is a positive, because I am an unaffiliated candidate free from the factionalism which has plagued UCU for some time. I am neither a member of UCU Left nor a member of 'Independent Broad Left/Progressive Left'. The structures and processes of our union can be learned; what qualifies me to sit on the NEC is my lived experience of being both a mentally ill and precariously-employed academic - and mental illness and casualisation are two of the most pressing issues facing UK academia in 2019.

I suffered a near-fatal breakdown into severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in 2016-17 as a postdoc and was even hospitalised for some time. But we should not think of mental poor health as an inevitable result of academic life. Workloads, performance management, precarity, irresponsible metrics and the rest are making people ill. It is vital that we tackle this head-on, and it won't be solved by wellness initiatives. But we also need to acknowledge that there will always be mentally ill and disabled people like me in our workforce even if conditions improve. These struggles are not mutually exclusive.

If elected to the NEC as women's representative I will fight to address the most urgent problems we face, which are:

  • Precarity and job insecurity, which disproportionately affects women. We need an end to zero-hours contracts and those doing hourly-paid teaching need to be adequately remunerated for preparation time. No contracts for less than twelve months.
  • Access and ableism. I will push for the rights of disabled and chronically ill staff and students as enshrined in the Equalities Act 2010.
  • Sexual harassment and misogyny. I will campaign for an end to non-disclosure agreements, and work with organisations such as the 1752 Group to ensure all universities and colleges have robust anti-harassment policies.
  • The unequivocal rights of trans staff and students. In the first instance I will consult with trans members of the academy to find out how best they might be supported.

Last updated: 29 January 2020