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Third GS candidate email from Vicky Blake

13 February 2024

Dear colleague,

Democratise - Organise - Unite

In this email I focus on Industrial Strategy and Equality, Health and Safety.

My full manifesto is available here: and the official UCU HQ hustings for General Secretary are here:

Maximising leverage to win

We must develop a coherent, coordinated industrial and political strategy to tackle employers' mismanagement, to win pay that keeps up with inflation, and to win substantial improvements to our working conditions. 

We need to secure, defend and extend collective sectoral bargaining. Coordinating local and sectoral bargaining in mutual reinforcement of each other will increase our pressure on employers.

I will not sidestep our democratic structures, and I will not impose my preferred strategy on the union. I will ensure: 

  • members are involved in developing our dispute goals;
  • we clearly and consistently communicate our demands;
  • we possess accurate, comprehensive legal and political information about possible industrial strategies and points of leverage;
  • we develop spaces for members to collectively explore strategic options ahead of decision-making by sector committees (or branches, in local disputes) - away from the public view of employers.

Research support for collective bargaining

In recent years branch committees have reported a lack of sustained support, and inconsistent information during disputes. This is partially due to the disappearance of the UCU Bargaining Information System, which formed part of UCU's research provision, and gave branches information about their employers' operations and workforce data.

I will re-invest in UCU's research capabilities, including re-establishing the UCU Bargaining Information System. There is no substitute for attention to detail. I will support branches with comprehensive, accurate, and consistent legal, political, and financial information to increase leverage in negotiations and maximise the impact of withdrawing their labour.

Opposing restructures and department closures

Investing in this type of research will have massive ramifications for opposing the wave of restructures and department closures hitting post-16 education. These formal processes move so quickly that we need to be prepared in advance, with concrete information on:

  • the private consultancy firms advising institutions;
  • institutional financial positions, including analysis of poor financial practices, and risky or unethical investments;
  • branch specific information on workforce patterns and points of industrial leverage unique to the institution.

Alongside this research, I will work with branches, and UCU staff to prepare sample local grievances related to restructuring and department closures. To construct these, we must draw on the expertise of our Equality standing committees, and the Anti-casualisation, Academic Related Professional Services, and Climate and Ecological Emergency committees.

Workplace democracy

External consultancies are also implicated in the erosion of governance in our institutions. This must be challenged. Staff representation on college Boards of Governors and university Councils is a lever UCU has not pressed hard enough in recent years. UCU Scotland's campaign to reform governance was instrumental in developing the Higher Education (Scotland) Act (2016), which moved Scottish universities towards a more democratic governance model. I will push for workers to have the voice they deserve in governance across post-16 education, backed up by the expanded research unit. 

Equality, Health and Safety

We must relentlessly pursue fair, accessible, and safe workplaces. To do this we need to overhaul our approach to legal provision. Our union is overly risk averse in using legal frameworks and the Equality Act 2010 to advance the collective interests of members in individual casework, legal challenges, and via test cases.

I will ensure that branches get regular guidance including information on legislation, case law, and the implications of political and policy decisions for members; this will reflect key differences across devolved administrations and dependencies.  

We must also ensure that branches in dispute no longer get inconsistent and unhelpful advice.

Living our values

We must model the conditions we fight to secure in our workplaces, for UCU members and staff. Among the many things we need to do, this will include:

  • resolving disputes and concerns raised by UCU's recognised staff union, Unite;
  • comprehensive action to improve accessibility and inclusion in UCU;
  • improving hybrid access to meetings and events;
  • supporting minoritised groups seeking to organise together, particularly those underrepresented in UCU's structures;
  • formalising mandatory, annual Equalities training for UCU leadership (Officers, NEC, UCU senior leadership team);
  • tackling structural racism in our union;
  • continuing our work fighting for trans and non-binary liberation;
  • auditing UCU's emissions and reducing our reliance on single use plastic and physical media.

Please give me your first preference vote, for the change UCU needs.

In Solidarity,

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Last updated: 13 February 2024