All out for USS

Dr Victoria Showunmi (UCL Institute of Education)

Election address

I am a Black woman employed as a lecturer in the Institute of Education at University College London.  I have been a member of UCU and of the UCL IOE Branch for some time.  I am also a member of UCL UCU women's group. Prior to this I was branch secretary at Westminster College and served on the National Executive Committee of NATFHE as an Equal Opportunities committee member.

I would describe myself as an academic who is able to draw on experiences gained in further and higher education, the public sector and corporate organisations. My research interests and expertise are in gender, identity, race and class. My current research focuses on 1) the notion of identity and leadership and 2) Black girls and Black young women and their well being. I am passionate about equality issues and how they translate into everyday practice for organisations and their workface. Another strength I have is being able to see and grasp the 'big' picture which is a must when working with complex diversity issues.  UCU is strongest when it is inclusive of all equality strands.

The Trade Union Bill that is going through Parliament will have a major impact on our union. We are already facing challenging times, that have become more difficult over the past few years. The ongoing austerity agenda which is cutting into much of the further education provision and now spreading into higher education requires unity and a need to come together as one voice that stands and values difference. The Green Paper on higher education threatens to open the sector to privatisation and the current further education review is likely to cost thousands of jobs.

Like many other workers in the public and private sectors, we have seen our pensions attacked and our pay effectively cut.  Both academic and academic-related staff are being subjected to heavier workloads and increasing pressure to reach targets.  Staff who are regarded as 'underperforming' are at risk of being 'managed out' of their institution or given duties which would damage their career prospects.

These are circumstances which require not only a strong united union, but also determined efforts to build alliances with other trades unions and in the wider community. Recruitment to increase our membership density, and the development of new activists, are key tasks, to ensure that we speak with greater authority to our employers.

On certain key issues, we have no alternative but to take industrial action.  The Trade Union Bill will make that more difficult, but not impossible.  Provided we carry our members with us, and carefully plan and target our action, then we can win.

Last updated: 1 February 2016