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First GS candidate email from Vicky Blake

25 January 2024

Democratise - Organise - Unite

I am the Branch Secretary of University of Leeds UCU and a former UK President of UCU.

I am running as an independent candidate to be General Secretary because I believe we need to make substantial changes to build the effective union our members need and deserve.

I am asking for your first preference vote because I have the experience, dedication, and fresh approach to leadership that will help us build a more democratic, united, and organised UCU.

Achieving change requires better planning and resourcing, clearer communication, more support for our local branches, and an urgent shift in our union's leadership culture. I have developed a practical plan aimed at deepening our organising capacity, increasing our leverage, and renewing member faith in UCU. We know from local and sectoral wins that when we work together, and when our branches and our staff are well supported and motivated, we are a powerful force.

I have a track record of working hard for members at every level of UCU in elected roles from local casualised rep to UK President. My programme for change is inspired by conversations with members and branches across our union about their experiences.

Pay erosion and poor working conditions blight our institutions. We know we need to fight for fair pay that keeps up with inflation; job security; working conditions that are healthy, safe, equitable and fair; a Just Transition to a green economy; a good legal strategy and UCU to have a seat at the table influencing policy and practice.

To achieve the change we need, we need a plan. As General Secretary I will:

  • Be accountable to members and the National Executive Committee as my employer
  • Ensure transparency in decision-making structures, processes, and finances
  • Value democracy by respecting our democratic structures and their decisions
  • Include, engage, and empower members and committees via reliable, effective communication and clear, timely legal and industrial advice
  • Foster collaboration and productive debate to deter damaging infighting
  • Ensure proper resourcing of research to back our organising work, political policy development, and lobbying
  • Overhaul information management systems to support effective organising
  • Proactively listen to and support our equality standing committees, who are vital in supporting our most marginalised members
  • Improve the clarity and accessibility of our legal support system, in individual casework, and collectively in relation to test cases and legal challenges
  • Empower branches to use equalities, health and safety, and employment law to campaign effectively, with guidance reflecting key differences across devolved nations and dependencies.
  • Embed sustainability and climate advocacy into our bargaining agenda and union practices
  • Ensure that UCU models fair employment practices, repairing industrial relations with our recognised staff union

As a widening participation professional, I understand the nexus of education policy between FE and HE and pre- and post-92 institutions. I am committed to moving all UCU members forward.

My union work directly shapes my approach to leadership. As Chair of Anti- Casualisation Committee, for five years I worked to bring people together from all sectors and political perspectives. It was through working with everyone, including across factions, that after many years of effort we established job security as a pillar of UCU's industrial claims at local and sectoral levels, and achieved better representation for casualised members. This approach also drives the work of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee, of which I am a founding member and current co-chair.

We can define UCU through working together, instead of divisive infighting. Differences cannot - and should not - be erased. Handled well, they can be a basis for building stronger collective positions.

As a former Chair of the Higher Education Committee, Vice President, and UK President, I am an experienced negotiator and understand how employers pressure union representatives to buckle at key moments. That is why I have consistently advocated for better, clear communication with branches and members and to improve the transparency of our structures.

To learn more about my campaign or to contact me directly, please see my website and my detailed manifesto: My website also hosts my blog, with commentary on previous and ongoing union business. Further links to social media and my mailing list are below.

Please consider giving me your vote, and please vote.

In Solidarity,


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Last updated: 25 January 2024