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Members' Bulletin April 2019

The General Secretary election Voluntary severance Employers offer (sic) another pay cut

Birkbeck Members’ Bulletin

25 April 2019



The General Secretary election

Voluntary severance

Employers offer (sic) another pay cut




Vote in the General Secretary election!


After 14 years as UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt recently stepped down from the post for health reasons. We wish her all the best but must now move on to the business of electing a successor.


The General Secretary in UCU, as in all unions:

  • wields enormous influence over the strategic direction of the union
  • plays a key role in national negotiations
  • hires and manages the large number of union officials
  • leads delegations to meet government ministers and civil servants
  • constitutes the face of the union in public debates on higher education


There are three candidates in the election race, each with very different strengths and weaknesses and the winner will therefore make an enormous difference to the union.


It is therefore imperative that you express your view by casting a vote.


Ballot papers will be issued 29 April and the poll closes 23 May.


The candidates are:


Jo Grady (Sheffield)

Jo McNeil (Liverpool)

Matt Waddup (UCU HQ)


The local committee does not have an agreed preference for a single candidate so two members of the committee each write below on the strengths of two of the three candidates, Matt Waddup and Jo Grady (nobody volunteered to write for Jo McNeil).  


Matt Waddup for General Secretary


John Kelly


The 2018 pensions dispute was the most significant event in the union’s recent history and provides a test case by which to judge the candidates for General Secretary.


The key turning point was the April ballot, when a settlement was on offer after 14 days of strike action. We were asked: should we accept a new and independent Joint Expert Panel to review the existing pension scheme (abolition of the scheme was off the agenda) and call off any further industrial action?

Or should we fight on with 14 more days of strike action in the hope of securing an even better offer, but also risk strike disintegration and serious defeat?


Matt Waddup rightly sided with the clear majority of members who recognized the offer constitute a major victory and voted by a margin of 2:1 on a 64% turnout to accept the settlement and the Joint Expert Panel. 


In contrast, Jo Grady and Jo McNeil both made the major, strategic error of calling for a continuation of the dispute, placing themselves at odds with the clear majority of the membership.


Matt’s strategically sound position was based on many years of experience in the trade union movement, in contrast to the far less experienced Jo Grady. It was also rooted in his recognition of the necessity for the union to think and act strategically, ensuring that members are fully consulted about bargaining goals and about campaign tactics and strategy.


VOTE Matt Waddup for General Secretary!


Please vote Jo Grady for General Secretary!


Andy Fugard


This is the first time I have felt genuinely enthusiastic about a UCU election. I believe Jo can help build UCU and improve its effectiveness at fighting widespread precarity and inequality, growing workloads, and resisting metric-driven managerialism.


Jo is the only candidate with experience working as a lecturer in HE – in my view this is essential for ensuring campaigns are effective for Birkbeck members. She is Senior Lecturer in Employment Relations so her academic expertise is directly relevant. She also vows to work with professional services colleagues and acknowledges how they are often in the most precarious positions.


Jo has a decade’s worth of grassroots UCU experience, starting as a Dept Rep when she was a lecturer at Leicester; she was also Co-Branch Secretary. When she moved to Sheffield she became branch Pensions Officer. Recently she was elected to the National Executive Committee (NEC) with a huge majority. She also co-founded USSbriefs, which quickly became essential reading to understand the pension dispute. Together this experience is excellent prep for the role.


I am confident Jo will make a wonderful General Secretary and encourage to you vote Grady for GS!


Read more at and








Voluntary severance


Union observers have attended all three college panels examining applications for voluntary severance. The numbers so far are divided fairly evenly between Academic Departments, Professional Services and School Administration and there is a slight preponderance of women over men (38 to 27). These numbers may change once the final panel meets in May.


Most of the 65 applications were approved and there was considerable discussion, in which the union played its role, about the implications of each case for those colleagues who remain in post, both in academic Departments and in Professional Services. Once the final details in these cases have been confirmed, colleagues should remain vigilant and let us know of any problems that arise as colleagues leave.   



Employers’ ‘offer’ (sic) 1.5%.....yet another pay cut


At the recent national negotiating meeting (11 April) the university employers raised their initial offer of 1.3% to……1.5%. Price inflation for March 2019 (compared to March 2018) is between 1.8% (the CPIH measure) and 2.5% (the RPI), so whichever measure is employed the employers are offering yet another pay cut. Moreover, this insulting ‘offer’ comes at a time when HESA data shows that university surpluses and reserves reached record levels in 2018-18.


UCU Annual Conference late May will be discussing the (lack of) progress in pay negotiations and our delegate will report back.