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From The Socialist newspaper, 15 March 2007

Right wins lecturers' union leadership - on a 14% turnout

ON 9 March, the University and College Union, UCU, announced the results of the election for its first general secretary since its formation from the merger of AUT and NATFHE.

Thomas House

The result was a narrow victory for the right. Former AUT general secretary Sally Hunt won with 52% of the final vote.

This is a step back for a union desperately in need of fighting leadership.

At Dundee university for example, a serious fightback by the local UCU branch, supported by students, was able to halt plans to impose compulsory redundancies. This has prompted many activists to support the call for an effective national response to cuts and closures (see the website: www. petitiononline.com/fightnow/), a demand supported by the left but not by Hunt.

Unfortunately, the left had two candidates, Roger Kline and Peter Jones. Socialist Party members supported a first preference vote for Kline, since he was the stronger candidate, whilst calling for a second preference vote for Jones, whom we recognise as a principled left-winger but lacking the base of support to win outright.

Having two separate campaigns undoubtedly diverted energies that could have been better spent on a united campaign.

The turnout for the election was very low, at under 14%, which must reflect disillusionment following bad national pay deals in both Further and Higher Education in recent months.

Had Roger Kline distanced himself more vigorously from these deals, he would have been able to appeal to these disillusioned members and win outright, regardless of the split campaigns.

The main tasks now are to build the union and the left within it.

This can be done by an orientation towards younger and lower-paid workers in universities and colleges who may not currently be active members.

These workers can be inspired by effective campaigning against cuts, closures and privatisation and for an end to casualisation of pay and conditions.

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