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Philip McGowan (Queen's University Belfast)

Election address

I have been senior lecturer in American literature at Queen's University Belfast for fourteen years; before that I worked at Goldsmiths' College, University of London, for seven years. Across these last two decades I have witnessed the workload pressures on colleagues rise dramatically, the incremental spread of the use of casual and insecure contracts to cover teaching and, in increasing numbers, the loss of brilliant colleagues from the U.K. higher education system. The erosion of our pay and working conditions, whether as the academics delivering degree subjects or as the academic support staff without whom none of this work happens, means that we are all stretched to the limits and beyond in coping with the demands of a twenty-first-century education system that, at its heart, is failing us. The neoliberal model has failed us and it is failing our students. The USS strikes of early 2018 and the #UCUStrikesBack campaign of November and December highlight a shared fact: we need change and we need change now. The combined actions and voices of members brought UUK and UCEA back to negotiations they said would not be possible. Now we must keep making the arguments for better pay, for a sustainable pension scheme, the end of the gender pay gap, the removal of casualisation policies, and fair and equal treatment for all colleagues irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.

I cannot point to a long list of former activities and achievements in the Union or cite my many accomplishments as a Union representative. I do not have any. Instead, I am standing as a candidate in this election as an ordinary member - an ordinary member who has paid his subscriptions and who wants change. I am standing as a member who has stood on picket lines and will do so again so that our universities change for the better. I am not standing based on the record of my own past but on the promise of what we can do, collectively, in the future.

Above all, I ask that in this election that you use your vote. The last time that an election for the Northern Ireland position was held, in 2017, only 163 of our over 1500 regional members voted; before that, in 2014, there was no election at all. Whether you cast your vote for me or for my colleague Linda Moore at Ulster, let's send a clear message to our own institutions and also to the wider UCU family: Northern Ireland wants change. Colleagues across our institutions have an opportunity, on the back of hopefully the largest turnout in a UCU election here, to send either myself or Linda to the NEC with that mandate for change.

Last updated: 30 January 2020