Boycott Leicester

Covid-19 (coronavirus): UCU has produced advice for members. Find more information and updates here.

Julie Wilkinson (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Election address

I am a senior lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, where since 2016 I have been Branch Secretary to UCU's largest post-92 branch. After a successful campaign to improve branch participation through e-balloting, since my election, we have increased branch membership by over 50%.  The proportion of women members matches or exceeds the gender balance in the workforce; strong female representation on our negotiating teams helps us to identify and combat discrimination, and widespread exploitation through increasing work-loads, decreasing professional autonomy, diminishing pay, lack of job security, zero-hours contracts that undercut union rates, and for some members, everyday workplace bullying.  

Despite the introduction of the new Tory anti-union law, alongside colleagues, I led the first successful GTVO campaign in UCU to achieve participation of over half our members, who then took effective industrial action in defence of more than 190 members' jobs threatened by the closure of our Crewe campus.  From a branch which was effectively de-recognised by management, in three years we have achieved crucial deals including a 'lecture capture' agreement protecting members' copyrights; a research Code of Practice which recognises amongst other equalities issues, the impact of pregnancy, child-rearing, and caring responsibilities in relation to research outputs; and now, a new recognition agreement reinstating UCU's formal rights to consultation and negotiation.  Work to combat an entrenched gender pay gap continues.  

I also offer you my experience of activity in two other trade unions, Equity and the Writers' Guild, both specialising in organising casualized workers. As a researcher, I recently worked with the Writers' Guild to challenge the representation of women on stage, in tv and film, persuading companies to introduce gender equality targets, and all-female casts. In my own professional writing, I celebrate and explore the lives of girls and women.  I bring first-hand experience of the challenges many women face in our working lives; as a mother, a single parent of two daughters, an escapee from domestic abuse, and now as the carer of an elderly parent.  

As I write, no-one knows what political landscape we will be facing when you are voting for your UCU women's reps.  As a young activist during the 1984-5 Miners' Strike, I was elected Secretary to the Nottinghamshire Women's Support Group, where we learned how to build solidarity, and care for each other.  That long strike left me with no appetite for failure, but with a deep commitment to the member-led values of the trade union and labour movement, and the need for persistence.  Equality is not only a goal in itself; it is also a lever of wider social justice.  

Please also consider voting for Janet Farrar as Vice President, and for Joanna de Groot and Renee Prendergast. 

Julie Wilkinson

Last updated: 29 January 2020