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Mark Taylor-Batty (University of Leeds)

25 January 2024

Election address

Professor of Theatre and Performance, University of Leeds 

I first got involved in local branch UCU activity over 20 years ago because I wanted to make a difference, through participating in the local branch committee, taking on team leadership roles, and, crucially, doing casework to support members experiencing difficulty or disadvantage in their everyday working lives. The value of the union, for me, has always been in what difference it strives to bring to the workplace, the working environment, to working relationships. Strength always comes through community and solidarity.  

After the 2011 valuation of the USS pension scheme, and the detrimental changes made to the scheme thereafter, I took a keen interest in pensions. As local branch pensions officer and president, I worked to unpick and protest each subsequent detrimental attack on that deferred income in the decade that followed. I was subsequently elected as a national USS negotiator in both 2022 and 2023. I was instrumental - working within a powerful and dedicated team - in negotiations that have concluded in the restoration of benefits further eroded after the 2020 valuation, and in recovery of interim loss. My attitude has been goal-oriented, to drive forward evidence-based arguments, find pragmatic routes to achieving union objectives, and seek to communicate detail clearly and comprehensively to fellow members.  

The union needs pragmatic, resolute and effective means to similarly drive forward achievable objectives in its pay and conditions campaigns. Industrial Action was effective in the USS campaign, and we need to find focussed, tightly tuned modes of approach that can similarly benefit the whole sector in challenging gig-culture precarity in HE, robustly remedying eroded pay, addressing inequality and dispelling bigotry. We need to find points of intersection between a range of approaches and attitudes to industrial action and negotiating strategies that allow us to build on our shared values of solidarity and of our unrelenting support for the most vulnerable, the most excluded, the most precarious. 

 I believe that members should always have a say in determining union objectives, and how their union pursues those objectives. The access to decision-making should be both broad and deep across the membership, and all members should have confidence that the range of tools that the union uses to gauge the will of the membership are deployed effectively, appropriately, and with precision.

Last updated: 25 January 2024