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Professor Ewan McGaughey (King's College London)

19 February 2024

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Election address

Vote for Ewan, and together we'll transform UCU, and UK education

Your voice can change our union, and if you vote, together we'll transform UK education. My name is Ewan McGaughey, I'm a law professor specialising in labour law and public services at King's College, London, and I believe in fair pay, democracy, equality, and a living planet. I'm asking for your support to be UCU general secretary because I care deeply about education. Like so many of us, I can't watch another 5 years of failure. We have to become coherent, positive, proactive, and have a strategy to get results. We've been on the defensive and reactive for too long. We must win, and restore the free public education that we all believe in.

I know we can change UCU nationally, because we see branches UK-wide getting results for members every day. When I served as president of KCL UCU, from 2020 to 2023, we moved from failing to meet ballot thresholds to getting among the highest results in the UK. With a long-term strategy of collective action, legal action, targeted publicity, and coherent persuasion, we sealed the best deals in the UK for fair pay, democracy, equality and security. And nationally, change is needed so desperately because:

·     we've had over 21% real terms pay cuts since 2009, and 13% since 2019 alone, despite tripled home student fees and unlimited international fees,

·     our voice at work has dwindled, with most governing bodies appointing their own successors,

·     the gender pay gap remains 14.8% across universities, even worse than the appalling UK average,

·     job insecurity and discrimination - including the race and disability pay gaps - are rife,

·     our pensions are used like a slush fund for the City and fossil fuels, and

·     university managers do nothing but greenwash when we have a climate emergency.

If you vote for our platform, together we will transform UCU. We will rebuild a functioning union. We will restore good faith sectoral collective bargaining. We will transform UK education. These will be our goals:

Eight goals to transform UCU + UK education

1. Fair pay: we must reverse the 21% real pay cuts since 2009, not waste more on management bureaucracy or fancy buildings without caring about the people inside. As pensions are restored, every USS employer contribution reduction must raise our pay. FE staff need equality with teachers. Professional Service staff need a fair progression system. Long-term we will shift resources away from managerial bureaucracy that creates pointless workloads, to pay rising with the value of our work.

2. Democracy: our governing bodies must be majority-elected by staff, not self-selecting cronies. Councils and governors set pay, job security, equality policies, appoint management, and mostly appoint themselves, behind closed doors. If you vote, UCU will advance our right to vote at work, everywhere.

3. End the gender pay gap, including with raised and equalised paid parental leave to 26 weeks, not more gendered childcare. We know discrimination in child care responsibility is a major structural cause of the pay gap, so we must get more than the bog-standard 18 weeks paid maternity leave, and 2 weeks paternity. Shared parental leave does not work, and we must get ahead of the private sector, and other countries.

4. Job security for every worker in written collective agreements and zero tolerance for discrimination. No more abusive fixed term contracts, sham-self employment, or failures to consult and negotiate. We will say loud and clear: UCU doesn't bargain over legal rights, we enforce them. We will have zero tolerance for any discrimination. We'll undo the structural causes of the race and disability pay gaps through a positive plan, away from so called "market" rates of pay that embed structural bias, to ensuring interview and promotion panels look like the communities we live in.

5. USS pension board two-thirds elected, and a shareholder voting policy for clean, pro-labour investments. Currently the USS board has just 3 UCU directors, 4 UUK directors, and 5 appointed by the incumbents on the board - they're hired from firms like JP Morgan, Citibank, and British Coal. They've failed, utterly. These 5 directors must be elected by us, not themselves. USS and all pension funds must follow our investment preferences, divest fossil fuels, vote our shares for 100% clean energy, and for raising labour rights, in every company.

6. Boost our legal department, and back UCU staff and branches, with facility-time buyouts, to defend all workers' rights. UCU needs to actually defend workers' rights. UCU used to take cases, and win, right up to the Supreme Court. Since 2019 there was nothing. We will boost every branch's facility time (that's statutory time off for union work) and train our members to win at Employment Tribunals.

7. 100% clean energy at UCU, USS, in all universities, investments and endowments, not more toxic gas, oil or coal. We're in a climate emergency, and just declaring it isn't enough. If you vote, UCU itself will go to 100% clean energy as fast as technologically possible: a just cessation of fossil fuels. We'll make every university follow our example, and every endowment fund divest and vote its shares for clean energy, just like at USS.

8. Restore public education funding, with fair tax, not forced fees, and equality and respect in further education. Free education based on merit, not money, is a universal human right in international law. We will take it seriously. We must replace grotesque fees that punish working class families with debt, with fair tax and restored grants. The global market in higher education must be replaced with treaties for free movement for study between countries with zero fees. We must havea National Education Service at home, and free universal education abroad, for the 21st century.

If you're still not convinced, when I served as KCL UCU president, this is what we achieved. We restored collective bargaining, and succeeded in:

·     raising local pay by 42% in London Weighting, the highest at a capital university,

·     securing at least two more staff-elected members on our university governing body, pending a full governance review, where we've pushed for the Council to be majority-elected by staff,

·     raising paid parental leave to the highest at a UK university - 6 weeks paternity, 20 weeks maternity - with a view to phasing up to 26 weeks, and undoing a key structural cause the gender pay gap,

·     signing the first written collective agreement in over a decade, codifying our members' legal rights to job security,

·     reversing (at least) three discriminatory dismissals - for pregnancy and disability - with legal and public action, getting our colleagues' jobs back, and overseeing an overhaul of the managers and HR responsible,

·     suing the directors of USS, when UCU failed to prevent their reckless cuts in 2021. With thousands of UCU members, we led the UK's biggest ever legal crowdfund, and just when we got leave to the Court of Appeal, the USS directors announced they'd reverse the cuts (what a coincidence!). We had no doubt, we need to use every tool to change USS - legal and collective action - and our case was overwhelmingly backed by UCU's National Executive Committee, but not UCU's leadership.

If you believe in fair pay, democracy, equality and public education, come join us at, because we're on your side. Above all, vote! And together we will transform the education system that we love.

Last updated: 19 February 2024