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March 27th, 2014:

Losing our Ace

Followers of this blog will know that we don’t usually use this space to write in positive terms about “the management”. Right now in the middle of a tough national dispute about Fair Pay in HE, facing a marking boycott from 28th April, it does feel odd to be writing this. But here goes. 

Malcolm Ace, the University’s Chief Operating Officer, will be leaving the University for the NHS in May.  This news has been met with surprise, shock and  sadness by us here in Southampton UCU.

We will miss Malcolm.  A lot.   

Malcolm has been on the other side of the joint negotiating table from the campus trades unions – first as Chief Finance Officer and then as COO since 2004 . He has represented the University side in arguments about the new pay framework, job evaluations and successive pay claims and he has put the management case for restructurings and redundancies.

We did not always agree with Malcolm. But as one of the negotiators on the union side of the table I always respected him. Malcolm demonstrated thoughtfulness and integrity in his dealings with staff and their trade union representatives. He listened to our arguments.  He worried about doing the right thing and the best thing. He genuinely cared about staff here.

But for Malcolm it was not just talk.  He acted – often quietly – but always motivated by doing the right thing. He visited picket lines to make the University case against strike action but also, memorably last year, stood in the cold and rain to tell staff driving their cars at the picketers that this behaviour was not acceptable. Recently he stepped in to solve a problem, taking ownership of a mistake made by another member of a team, apologising in person to all those affected and making sure the problem was resolved. For me these episodes were examples of true leadership. Just small things, but reflecting deep values that many of us share.

So, don’t hold your breath for another post like this, but I felt this should be put in print.  Malcolm, we will miss you.

Professor Catherine Pope, Southampton UCU Hon Treasurer