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First GS candidate email from Ewan McGaughey

25 January 2024

Let's rebuild UCU, and transform UK education

Your voice can change our union, and together we can transform UK education. My name is Ewan, and I believe we will win fair pay, democracy, equality, a living planet, and restore free public education, if you vote. I teach labour law at King's College, London. From 2020 to 2023 I served as KCL UCU branch president, with unprecedented success. We moved from a branch that missed ballot thresholds, to having among the UK's highest turnouts. And we can succeed nationally, if you vote for change.

So, I'd like to ask for your support to be UCU General Secretary, because we need clear goals, and a strategy. We've had over 21% real terms pay cuts since 2009, and 13% since 2019 alone. Our voice at work has dwindled. The gender pay gap remains 14.8% across universities, even worse than the appalling UK average. Job insecurity and discrimination are rife. Our pensions are used like a slush fund for the City and fossil fuels. Our UCU staff and branches are brilliant, but have lacked resources and strategy from the top. We've been on the defensive for too long. We must regain our dignity, be coherent, proactive, positive, and restore the free public education system we believe in. If you support our platform, please follow and subscribe. And I promise you, we'll become a working union with these 8 goals:

  1. Fair pay: we must reverse the 21% real pay cuts since 2009, not have more waste 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. I know we can do it. With our partners at Unison and Unite, when I was KCL UCU branch president, we negotiated the highest university London Weighting, a 42% rise in two years.
  1. Democracy: our governing bodies must be majority-elected by staff, not self-selecting cronies. University councils set pay, job security, equality policies, appoint management, and mostly appoint themselves. There are majority staff-elected Councils in Cambridge and Oxford, strong voice in Scottish universities, some in English universities, and there's a campaign now in Wales. At KCL, we balloted and won two more staff-elected Council members, pending a full governance review. Staff make education, so UCU must defend our right to vote at work, everywhere.
  1. 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. At KCL, we balloted and won 20 weeks paid maternity, and 6 weeks paternity (now the highest among UK universities) with a view for more.
  1. 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 have zero tolerance for any discrimination. We will 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, not an episode of "Dad's Army". At KCL, when I was branch president, we negotiated the first written collective agreement in over a decade, enshrining job security rights, we reversed at least 3 discriminatory dismissals through legal and collective action, and restructured HR as we went.

(... and in summary...)

  1. USS pension board two-thirds elected, and a shareholder voting policy for 100% clean energy, and pro-labour rights.
  1. Boost our legal department, and back UCU staff and branches, with facility-time buyouts, to defend all workers' rights. Never call a ballot, and fail.
  1. 100% clean energy at UCU, USS, in all universities, investments and endowments, not more toxic gas, oil or coal.
  1. Restore public education funding, with fair tax, not forced fees, and equality and respect in further education.

The full platform is here. I'd love to hear what you think. How should UCU and education change in the next 5 years? Your voice needs to matter again. If you join us, it will, and we will succeed together.

In Solidarity, Ewan
Follow @ewan_mg +

Last updated: 25 January 2024