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Andrew Feeney (Northumbria University)

25 January 2024


Election address

I have been a working trade unionist in various countries including Spain and Colombia. I am now a senior lecturer in linguistics at Northumbria University and have been active in UCU, and its predecessor union, since joining in 2000, serving as vice chair and, currently, branch secretary. 

During this time I have undertaken a wide range of union duties including extensive case work representing individual members, helping lead and strengthen the branch and negotiating local policies with University management, while maintaining our progressive equality agenda, and focusing clearly on members' priorities. When necessary, I have been involved in running disputes and have had numerous successes including resisting redundancies and privatisation, and improving working conditions.  

I served on the first UCU NEC in 2006 and have again had the opportunity to undertake this role for the last two years. This year I was honoured to be elected to the position of vice chair of the Higher Education Committee, holding senior UCU post holders to account as necessary, and trying to ensure that the, sometimes fractious, committee functions properly in the interest of all members. Although we have had successes, such as USS, these last two years have shown me that UCU needs a drastic change in direction. The handling of our pay dispute was not effective, and we need to elect representatives who will consult directly with the membership and not pursue narrow political agendas. We need to ensure we retain a membership that is engaged and united, focus only on the concerns that matter to our members, and not engage in reckless industrial action. We face a challenging future and, when fights are inevitable, we will only succeed if we learn the lessons from past disputes and embrace a more creative use of tactics. 

I am asking for your support to enable me to continue to help UCU develop as a thriving, member-led union, that, crucially, is united. I will continue to use my position to ensure the attention of NEC is firmly directed on what I see as the priorities of the union, including resisting commercialisation and defending members from bullying, micro-management and the erosion of terms and conditions ( VCs have shown that they are incapable of defending academic values and championing higher education as a good for all. They have capitulated to successive governments, embracing the idea of universities as little more than degree retail outlets and persist in their mission to de-professionalise our members, undermining autonomy and expertise. It is up to UCU to be the defender of quality, and equality, in education, demanding better working lives for all our members.

Last updated: 25 January 2024