Warwick UCU Guidance for 2019/2020 National Elections

By now, you will have hopefully received your ballots for the Trustee, Officer and NEC electionsThese elections are hugely important, but because there are so many different positions we are being asked to vote on, they can also be confusing to members which often leads to low turnout. We’re hoping that by giving some guidance we can change that!

Key information:

  • Voting closes on 4 March but it’s a postal ballot, so make sure you get your ballots in by the 2nd of March. If  you haven’t yet received your ballot, order a replacement here.
  • Because all NEC, officer and trustee ballots are conducted by single transferable vote (STV), voters MUST rank candidates in order of preference (1, 2, 3 etc) until they can no longer express a preference for any candidate. If you just mark a candidates name, it will be considered a spoiled ballot
  • Warwick UCU members are eligible to vote in the following categories: Trustee, Vice-President (becoming president in 2022-23), UK-elected members HE (5 seats; to include at least one post-92, one academic related), and Representatives of women members (5 seats; three HE and two FE members to be elected).
  • Two groups have officially put out slates of candidates: UCU Left and Grady4GS (which represents the group who organised Jo Grady’s campaign; Jo herself as GS is not endorsing any candidates).

Whilst we do not have a branch position, certain members of our committee are offering recommendations of candidates to vote for. Below are their recommendations: 

UCU NEC recommendations from Myka Tucker-Abramson (Chair, Warwick UCU)

These recommendations are based on my experience as a UCU activist for the past five years as well as my experience as part of a grassroots, national anti-casualisation group (FACE) before that. I am recommending three candidates whom I have worked with and think would be excellent. I am also recommending four other members who I know less well, but think are hugely impressive. All of the candidates I am endorsing or trans-allies.

Mike Finn as UK Elected Member HE
Mike is hugely knowledgeable about the HE sector and trade unionism. He has a proven track record of fighting for UCU to be a truly democratic union. He is principled, fearless, truly independent and has mentored numerous trade union activists. Mike Finn was also a branch secretary at Warwick UCU whilst he worked here for a year.

Mark Pendleton as UK Elected Member HE
Mark has been a highly effective organiser for the rights of casualised, LGBTQ+, and migrant members. He co-founded the peer-network group International & Broke, which supports HE migrant staff and was crucial to getting migrant representation in the union. Mark is an experienced and committed grassroots activist and would be a real asset on the HEC.

Rhiannon Lockley for Women’s Officer
Rhiannon is a fierce and committed trade unionist, feminist, and anti-racist activist and organiser, and has been a particularly important presence in the West Midlands regional UCU.  Based in Birmingham, she would also bring more of our regional perspective to national. Finally, she is a trans-inclusive feminist which is very important in these elections.

I am also recommending the following members who I know less well, but who I think would be excellent:

Rhian Elinor Keyes for Women’s Officer

Leon Rocha for UK-elected members HE

David Harvie for Midlands HE

Margot Hill for Vice President

Finally, I highly rate both people running as representatives of migrant members, Robin Orfitelli and Dima Chami, but this is uncontested.

 

UCU NEC Recommendations Gavin Schwartz-Leeper (Assistant Secretary, Warwick UCU)

I’ll be supporting Mike Finn for NEC. Mike is our former branch secretary and has been an active branch leader at Liverpool Hope and Exeter (beyond Warwick). Mike’s expertise in higher education policy (and Brexit in particular) gives him a really useful perspective on national issues, as has his years working as a journalist and in Westminster as a policy expert. He co-authored a call for a new Condcordat for HE with Jo Grady and has worked on aspects of academic freedom relating to trade unionism. He’s a tireless activist for international, anti-racist, pro-trans (and wider LGBTQ+), and anti-casualisation issues. While he’s a committed left-wing activist, he supports a non-factional and member-led union. Mike’s always been an independent voice and I can’t think of anyone I’d trust more to represent rank and file UCU members.

 

UCU NEC Recommendations from Justine Mercer (elected UCU NEC rep for the East and West Midlands)

Having served on the NEC for three years, I am recommending three candidates I know well and rate very highly:

Theresa Forde (University of Derby) as # 1 for Midlands HE (East and West)

Michael Carley (University of Bath)andJamie Melrose (University of Bristol) as # 1 and 2 for UK HE

Theresa Forde (Derby)
Theresa has done great work on the East Midlands Regional Committee whose meetings I attend. She has been an activist for many years. Currently, our region does not have an elected HEC rep from a post-1992 university that takes part in national bargaining. We need a strong voice from this section of our union so that post-1992 institutions can benefit from the kind of transformation the pre-1992 sector enjoyed as a result of the 2018 USS strike.

Michael Carley (Bath)
Michael is a strong, independent candidate. His strategic thinking and timely contributions are invaluable in getting the various UCU committees (NEC, HEC and Education) to focus on our longer-term goals rather than technical minutiae. I have witnessed this at first-hand many times. He also writes a very informative, accurate and non-partisan blog.

Jamie Melrose (Bristol)
Jamie served on UCU’s Commission for Effective Industrial Action and is another strategic thinker. He has an impressive track record in his local branch (Anti-casualisation rep, Secretary and caseworker) and in the South West region (Regional Chair). I have seen him in action at many Congresses and HE Conferences.

 

Committee of Warwick UCU Stands in Solidarity with the Residents of the Issawiyah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem

Please find below an email Warwick UCU Committee has sent to the Hebrew University Administration. This is part of an international campaign headed by Academia for Equality. For more information about the organisation and to read their statement, go here.

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To the Hebrew University administration,

We write as the committee of the Warwick University branch of the Universities and College Union (UCU) to express our objection to the Hebrew University’s involvement in police harassment of residents of the Issawiyah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

We were greatly concerned to learn of the Hebrew University’s longstanding involvement in restricting the movement of residents of Issawiyah by requesting a police closure of an entrance to the neighbourhood. More recently, we hear that the Hebrew University has escalated its role in police harassment of Palestinians through permitting police surveillance of Issawiyah from campus.

We unequivocally condemn these actions, which intensify the domination of Palestinians in Issawiyah, make Palestinian staff and students feel unsafe, and have no place in a university. We stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Issawiyah and at Hebrew University, and with our allies in Academia for Equality, which campaigns for access to higher education for all communities in Israel.

Universities should be spaces of openness, dialogue and learning. However, as Warwick students occupying our own Students Union in November reminded us, universities often remain complicit in the discriminatory and violent practices of wider society, and we must work hard to ensure that Universities become juster, more democratic spaces.

We call on the Hebrew University to respect Palestinian rights, end its involvement in police harassment of the residents of Issawiyah, and uphold its mission as an institution of learning.

Sincerely,
Warwick UCU

Warwick UCU supports striking French workers

As French public sector workers continue their strike action against damaging pension reforms, Warwick UCU sends a special message of support and solidarity to all members of Éducation SUD, the education workers’ union. In the midst of UCU’s own campaign against degradation of pensions, pay and working conditions, we salute our colleagues who have joined the struggle of millions of workers in France against the government’s drive to replace security with precarity among those who do essential work. Our solidarity across national borders is a recognized strength of all working people. Your fight against privatisation and austerity is inspiring to us; your victory will be ours as well.

 

Statement of Solidarity With Those Protesting Against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019

Warwick UCU stands in solidarity with students, academics, and other citizens fighting to defend democratic rights in India by protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019. We note that the Act, which professes to provide preferential treatment to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan in the process of acquiring Indian citizenship, explicitly excludes Muslims from its purview. As many have pointed out, this exclusion, which is based on religious identity, is both immoral and unconstitutional. We condemn the use of violent police force in suppressing the aforementioned protests over the past week, which have involved the firing of tear gas bullets and water cannons, as well as alleged acts of sexual harassment, and the alleged use of firearms and pellets. Further, we condemn the undemocratic measures taken by the Indian government in response to the protests, including a widespread internet shutdown and curfew orders. 

We also note the horrifying violence inflicted by the state governments of Uttar Pradesh and other states where the police force is controlled by the ruling party. A large number of citizens, most of them Muslim, have been killed in UP, and several others elsewhere. There is a marked contrast between the treatment of protestors by police in BJP and non-BJP states: it can only be concluded from this that the ruling party has openly sanctioned violence against those who disagree with them, and in particular against Muslims. 

We have however been deeply moved by the massive and peaceful democratic protests that have taken place in many parts of the country. The citizens participating in these protests stand for democracy and constitutional principles, and the government whose policies they are opposing clearly stand for the opposite. The Modi government’s crackdown upon the protests is yet another chapter in its shameful abuse of human rights across the country. We wish to make it clear to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the ruling party that the world is watching them as they try to erode the world’s largest democracy.

We resolve to support all peaceful protests against the Act, and we affirm the right of students, academics, and all citizens to participate in such protests, in India and across the world. 

PS For more information, we recommend this “cheatsheet” which debunks state propaganda on the protests. 

Day 7: Pink Beanies and Resisting the Hostile Environment

It was cold; the picket started early; but we didn’t mind because the infamous pink beanies have finally arrived. We think you’ll agree that we look very comradely and cute!!

After energetic pickets at Gibbet Hill, Lynchgate, Westwood, and Gate House (phew!), we were welcomed back to the bus loop by this creative, hilarious, and very dispiriting sign. Indeed.

The theme of today was “Resistance to Trump and Johnson – Defend Migrants and End the Hostile Environment” and we were lucky enough to have three teach-outs on the topic. First, Was Hannah Jones’ interactive picket line teach out on the Hostile Environment, how it works, and how we can resist it. You can check out her #DigitalPicketLine recap here.

We were also treated to a post-picket teach in led by Aditya Sarkar on the rise of the far right globally and a talk by Ademola Anjorin on the education system and other racist legacies of British colonialism. In addition to spelling out the connections between the marketisation of higher education and the hostile environment, all of these talks suggested concrete ways that students and staff can work together to resist these regimes and create decolonised universities and societies. Jonathan Skinner’s teach out on “print activism” discussed some of the ways that art can play role in this process.

Tomorrow is our last day of strike action this year so let’s make it loud! Bring your voices, instruments, and noise-makers.

 

Day 6: Money (That’s What I Want)

“The best things in life are free
But you can give them to the birds and bees
I want money
That’s what I want
That’s what I want
That’s what I want”

Today was another great day on the picket line. The sun was shining and a Motown and Soul playlist kept everyone bopping.

Today’s picket was graciously sponsored by our members from the Philosophy Department and Professional Services from across the University.

We were also joined by Felix Ling, the Labour candidate for Stratford.

We also played the Gender Pay Gap game designed by our member Ninna. Unsurprisingly, the men won!

And speaking of games, our chalk game was seriously on point.

We also continued the production of our #unistories.

As always, we spent time with good friends, old and new!

All in all a good picket! We’re building up for a strong early morning picket tomorrow (8-11) and our best turnout yet on Wednesday (10-1:30)!

WHEN THEY SAY CUT BACK, WE SAY FIGHT BACK!

 

Day 5: You want sunshine, we got sunshine

As the weather has decided to end our narrative of struggle against elemental adversity – at least for now! – it’s appropriate that this triumphant Day 5 of the strike should showcase the bright sunlight of activist history (courtesy of today’s picket sponsors in the History department) and of ecopoetic expression (in response to today’s Global Climate Strike, and courtesy of co-sponsors the Department of English & Comparative Literary Studies).

 


We were heartened, as always, by the strong demonstrations of student support:

(English students support the strike!)

(Liberal Arts students support the strike!)

(Dogs support the strike!)

The Warwick Anti-Casualisation Committee unfurled its banner early this morning:

Meanwhile, the enormously powerful #unistory archive is growing and drawing more and more attention. This simple yet profound act of collective witness has been compared to the Occupy testimonies of a decade ago, and has already been widely circulated beyond Warwick. We are determined to highlight these stories of precarity, overwork, discrimination and struggle for all – including senior administrators – to see.

The day’s activities included a Climate Emergency Q&A hosted by the SU and a forum on “Narratives of Queer Islam: History, Politics, Protest” hosted by Warwick Pride and Warwick Queer History. Fusing scholarship, teaching and activism is a legacy of this action we aim to continue next week. Watch this space!

Day 4: Gorgeous Weather on the Picket Line

What a beautiful day on the picket line! After three days of rain, we had a wonderful day of . . . well, cloud and a bit of drizzle, but it felt like May sunshine.

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We had vibrant pickets at Westwood, Lynchgate, Gibbet Hill, and Gatehouse before returning back to the bus loop for some dancing, singing and chanting.

We were also lucky enough to have the National Educator’s Union (NEU) join us on the picket line and Emma Mort, the Warwickshire District Secretary gave a speech, highlighting the absurdity of universities putting money into capital projects instead of education. Warwick Occupy also came for a visit and gave a moving speech that drew links between our struggles and the anti-racist and anti-colonial struggles they are currently waging.

#Unistories is growing, physically expanding from the busloop to the Occulus and Library, and also growing online. Please come by and write your story, and if you can’t, consider tweeting your experience of the marketised university and why you are striking or supporting the strike.

Following the picket line, were two fabulous teach outs: a discussion on climate change and/as neocolonialism and a debate on Future of the Digital Economy.

Finally, we heard a rumour that the fabled UCU pink beanies might be making an appearance on the picket line tomorrow, but shhhh….don’t tell anyone.

Day 3: #Unistory, Kashmir, and lots more rain

What a day! 

The rain may not have let up, but neither did we, as the picket line continued to grow with faces new and old. Today’s picket line was adopted by PAIS and Modern Languages, which both had great showings of people, camaraderie and food.

We had an important teachout on why the situation in Kashmir is an issue for us in the UK.

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We also launched #unistory, an amazing arts project developed by artist, activist and student Julie Saumagne, where staff and students write their stories and experiences of the marketised, corporatised university, and explain why they are striking or support the strike. Add your own story when you come down to the picket line and check out our twitter feed to watch as the project unfolds. 

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Finally, we said good-bye to our beloved president, Duncan, who is off to start a new job next week. He will be sorely missed.

See you all on the picket line bright and early tomorrow morning!

Day 2: Picketers Rising (Early)

Day Two kicked off early – with many of our members getting up at 5:30 to make it to the picketline for a 7:30 start! The weather was….erm…..better?! And our spirits were high.

We had lively pickets at Lynchgate, Westwood, Gibbet Hill, and the Gatehouse. Members report fabulous conversations at each entrance with supportive staff and students, all of whom were eager to learn more about why we’re on strike and what they can do to help.

 

The day ended with a rally focusing on casualisation, including a brilliant speech by Warwick Anti-Casualisation’s Katja Laug before staff and students broke out for a teach out, “Persuasive Conversations on the Picket Line,” lead by Zarah Sultana and an amazing initiative “Rave, Resist, Register” which saw local Warwick DJs pair up with staff and students to get the vote out!

Reminder that tomorrow we meet at the bus loop at 10AM. Details below:

Wednesday 27 November (USS / pensions)
Meet at the Bus Loop 10am-2pm
(Adopted by PAIS and French/Hispanic Studies)

12-1pm The Relevance of Kashmir for UK Politics

1-1:30pm General Strike of 1926 (Warwick Marxist Society)