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Southampton UCU nominations for Vice-President 2021/22

Election statements

Claire Le Foll

I have served on the executive branch committee for now three years, first as campaign and membership officer for 2 years, and as vice-president for the last year. I was also chair of our Dispute Committee during the last industrial action. I am an experienced and committed trade-unionist and have a wealth of experience, both on the picket line engaging with branch members, and in meeting rooms with senior managers during consultations. I have also regularly represented the branch in national meetings. As your vice-president I have worked hard to transform our branch, making it more transparent and democratic. The past year has been difficult, with most of our time spent working closely with University management to ensure that the safety and wellbeing of staff was a key priority. Despite this unprecedented year I am proud of what we have achieved as a collective. We have worked tirelessly to represent members’ interests and pushed hard to ensure the safety of all staff. We have reported to you regularly through our weekly emails, canvassed your views on crucial union decisions and actively encouraged participation. We also stood firm when one of our members was victimized. There is a lot more to do and we need to be ready to face renewed attacks against the sector: pensions, redundancies, workloads, research funding cuts, reductions in tuition fees for arts and humanities subjects, to name but a few.

If elected as your Vice-President I would continue to be a pragmatic and hard-working member of the executive committee. I have an ethical, inclusive and principled approach to trade unionism. I value a collaborative style of leadership, and would always actively seek to hear the views of all our members. I have a strong working relationship with the rest of the executive committee, and together we have brought fresh energy and new ideas to the branch. I ask for the opportunity to build on the work we have done already on workload, equality and casualisation and to take the branch forward in an open and democratic way to face a challenging future.

Denis Nicole

I work in Electronics and Computer Science, researching and teaching cyber security, and am co-lead of outreach programmes in our NCSC Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education.

I have served here as UCU branch president, as UCU regional chair, and on the National Executive during the 2018 strikes that successfully defended USS pension defined benefits. On NEC, Janet Farrar and I also reinstated the UCU stress and bullying working group.

I am a candidate for the Vice President position because I fear the branch has somewhat lost its way; it needs a new focus on effective negotiation and, where necessary, on clearly defined, targeted, coordinated, action that will have a real impact on our employer. They were able to effectively ignore our strikes in 2020 and 2021; we gave up our pay in a useless gesture. Similarly, the branch blog consists largely of letters and emails to the University Executive Board, and the latter’s unhelpful replies. We have been unable to conclude negotiations about lecture recording; management also felt emboldened to try to sack one of our activists over their UCU work.

In short, to our managers, we have become something of an irrelevance; we are Tweet-ing solidarity but having little real impact. We need to be more proactive in pushing local negotiations to a conclusion: on lecture recording, workload, and appraisal, to name three. We need to pick our “fights” carefully; at national level this means reversing the recent dangerous proposals from the employer group (UUK) to destroy our pensions, and getting binding commitments from UCEA on casualisation, workload and equality. At local level, we need to be alert to the very real danger of substantial redundancies as seen at Leicester and elsewhere.

Effective trade union input to university policies also directly impacts our ability to protect individual members who are suffering from overwork, stress, or dangerous working environments. I play my full part in individual casework, and on health and safety; I believe I have a good grip of what matters for our members.