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First GS candidate email from Saira Weiner

25 January 2024

From the assault on post 16 education to the destruction of Gaza this is no time for 'business as usual'

My name's Saira Weiner, I'm a disabled, Jewish, anti-racist, socialist and pro Palestine member and branch secretary of UCU at Liverpool John Moores University and am standing for General Secretary.

*We need more effective resistance*

Tens of thousands of UCU members in Higher and Further education have joined strikes. In universities, our members, including myself , have taken unprecedented levels of action. Despite their incredible commitment, we have been let down by our union leadership and general secretary Jo Grady.

The disputes threw up new forms of organisation such as strike committees. But repeatedly the union leadership overturned or simply ignored democratic decisions on action.

Despite the important victory on USS pensions, one we wouldn't have achieved if we had followed the general secretary's advice and ceased to fight, we failed to make the breakthrough on the Four Fights.

This was not inevitable. A piecemeal strategy allowed the employers to wait out each crisis. The result of this vacillation? We failed to get through the anti-union ballot thresholds last time and now see a wave of redundancies.

We need to rebuild resistance in higher education and further education, where the possibility of a fight for binding national terms and conditions has been wasted. I support the urgent need for a Special Higher Education Sector Conference (SHESC) to discuss the fallout from the dispute and mandate a way forward.


Solidarity is the key to ensuring we win. The government and our employers try to divide us by scapegoating immigrants, racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism. A divided union makes it easier to push through pay cuts and redundancies. War is another means of division. Internationalism must be at the core of our union.

Gaza is in flames. As trade unionists, as human beings, we have to do whatever we can to halt Israel's genocide. The campuses must become a centre of resistance. I will make sure the national union supports hard-hitting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns so our institutions cut ties with apartheid.

I will call walkouts, protests, occupations, student staff assemblies and days of action. There can be no "business as usual" for any trade union under these circumstances.

The Israeli state is backed by our government: the same one that's attacking workers' living standards, pushing racism against migrants, refugees and Muslims, emboldening the far right, attacking trans and non-binary people and failing to act on climate change.

*I will be a servant of the members*

The general secretary is the servant of the members. That's why I will take the average pay of the members in post-16 education that UCU represents.

Members must control their disputes. This isn't just about voting on a deal to end a dispute. It means members having a genuine say in the timing , the nature of the action and strategy.

There must be an end to biased surveys of members designed to justify the preferred policy of the general secretary.

*Unions must challenge oppression*

UCU must fight for everyone and argue for liberation for all oppressed people. Collective solidarity gives each other confidence to challenge sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, disablism and all oppressions within our institutions.

UCU's leadership must listen to members and the Equality Standing Committees' they elect, and their calls for action and demands for change.

The demand to end all casualised employment must be central to all our national and local bargaining. We cannot abandon our most vulnerable colleagues.

*Defend academic freedom*

We have a duty to defend free speech and academic freedom from attempts by government and management clampdowns we have seen over trans rights, anti racism and Palestine. Attempts to silence, censure or discipline members for their views must be opposed with the whole might of the union.

*Strike to win*

As general secretary, I will campaign for UK wide bargaining in all sectors, provide branches with the support and resources needed, and work closely with sibling unions. The victory on USS pensions shows that action delivers results and builds the union.

We need to reboot the Four Fights in HE and develop a strategy for winning national bargaining in FE. Allowing branches to fight alone is a recipe for defeat.

The Minimum Service Bill going through Parliament attacks the right to strike. I stand with those in the trade union movement calling for non-compliance if it becomes law.



Last updated: 25 January 2024