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Second GS candidate email from Vicky Blake

6 February 2024

Dear Colleague,

Democratise - Organise - Unite

In this email I'm going to focus on two areas of my manifesto for change in UCU: democracy and decision-making, and recruitment and organising. You can read my plans in full on my website (

Improving UCU democratic structures

As general secretary, I will work with the NEC and elected committees, branches, and UCU staff to engage and organise our members. At no stage will I attempt to undermine decision-making structures or the decisions made by them. Instead, I will create spaces for discussing what progressive changes we need to improve our structures, before we vote on them. 

Making collective decisions and engaging members

No one simple method to engage members will be fully accessible to all. Members need time and space to explore ideas based on good information and analysis, for example about industrial action, or ahead of our annual Congress.

Hybrid and online meetings have improved access to synchronous decision-making meetings and reduced their carbon footprint. I want to further invest in technology and training to make hybrid events our norm.  

I believe we can mix synchronous and asynchronous methods to open detailed discussion of strategy to more members. Rep networks organised by work area and job/contract type are an important asynchronous vehicle to gauge members' views and issues facing particular staff groups. Branch and sectoral dispute committees can serve a similar function. I will also reinstate and update the UCU activist email list as an asynchronous source of peer support across the union.  

Digital tools should supplement, not side-step our democratic structures. Well constructed, clear electronic surveys can serve important functions, but must not unnecessarily restrict options. Surveys and e-ballots must not confuse, complicate, or undermine our decision-making structures. We must avoid replicating the kind of shallow approach to consultation our employers take, and prioritise the collective democracy unions were built to champion.

Coordinated campaigns

Powerful organising gives members the tools to act effectively by sharing skills and knowledge. Our members already do this at a grassroots level, and I will support and amplify this work. I will build on our existing regional structures to create a network of Organising Hubs. These hubs will bring members together across sectors to help branches share resources, save time, and work effectively.

Coordination between branches enhances our leverage on employers' representative bodies in sector-wide negotiations, and can help us secure binding collective sectoral bargaining where we do not yet have it. Working together maximises opportunities to build solidarity and support with local trades councils, political representatives, and working with other unions. 

To support our organising, I will invest in UCU's industrial research capacity, allowing us to systematically gather, analyse, and disseminate financial, industrial, legal, and political data. This will help us to anticipate and challenge employers' responses and tactics. For example, understanding the relationships between external consultancies and employers will help us to mount an effective resistance against both outsourcing and the countless restructures and department closures which have hit all of post-16 education, particularly post-92 Higher Education institutions.

Outsourcing and restructuring processes can be opaque, and by the time formal statutory mechanisms are announced, branch reps often find themselves presented with a management fait accompli. Better data and the more horizontal coordination via Organising Hubs will empower branches and our industrial committees to comprehensively challenge poor decision-making by employers.

Building membership and participation

Recruitment is a continuous and ongoing project, which goes hand in hand with organising. Potential members engage when they see work that is relevant to them, and a way to be involved. I will work with elected reps and branches to develop approaches to recruitment supported by organising, which do not assume that every branch has identical needs. 

The most limited resource for all of us is time, and employer funded time for union work (backfilled facilities time) is often inadequate, or even denied altogether. One of my earliest priorities will be to launch a UCU-wide campaign to increase facilities time, including paid 'time-on' for members on hourly paid and fractional contracts. 

Our union centre members' interests. I will make myself available to branch and regional meetings, take part in forums where ideas and opinions can be expressed, and ensure that union communication is two way.

Please consider giving me your vote, and please vote.

In Solidarity,


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Last updated: 6 February 2024