Magazine article Times Higher Education

No Mandate for Change

Magazine article Times Higher Education

No Mandate for Change

Article excerpt

In The Rhetoric of Reaction: Perversity, Futility, Jeopardy (1991), Albert O. Hirschman warns that a typical trope from the camp of reaction is that an action will produce, via a trail of unintended consequences, the contrary of what is being pursued: by pursuing it, you threaten that which you most value.

In the University and College Union, we seem doomed to relive the admonition. Sally Hunt, flush with her re-election as general secretary by a 73 per cent majority in a turnout of 12.5 per cent (or 8.4 per cent of the membership), deems this a mandate to centralise power in her office through a plebiscitary "democracy" ("Support us to help you", 15 March).

So, the UCU turns inwards to consider governance at the time of its greatest test from external threats. The government parks its White Paper on the privatisation of the sector to pursue its programme though ministerial order and without parliamentary scrutiny; the UCU debates its internal structures. The government pursues the abolition of national bargaining for pay and conditions of service; the UCU reflects on how to reallocate 7p per member per month from democratic representation to servicing individual cases. The twin pensions battles continue; the UCU opens a members' survey on restructuring before the Teachers' Pension Scheme survey is completed.

There is a case for revisiting the electoral constituencies and the size of the national executive committee. There is also an established way of doing so: discussion of alternatives on the NEC, branch and regional debate, and decisions taken at the national congress. …

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