Plymouth FE UCU strike in 2023. Photo: Duncan Moore
Plymouth FE UCU strike in 2023. Photo: Duncan Moore

Duncan Moore, Plymouth Socialist Party, and UCU member in Adult and Community Education

The elections to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the University and College Union (UCU) come at a critical time for our union and for further education (FE). I’m standing to represent FE members on our NEC.

The NEC elections take place at the same time as the election for general secretary. See ‘UCU elections: serious fighting and democratic leadership needed’.

Last year UCU members faced the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory, coming on top of ten years of below-inflation pay rises. Our members responded magnificently, smashing the strike ballot thresholds and taking action in greater numbers than ever, often winning more than college employers originally offered.

But FE pay continues to fall in real terms and is now £9,000 a year less on average than in schools. Many staff are on insecure, casual contracts. They have unmanageable workloads, causing burnout and stress. There are severe staff shortages. Now FE faces fresh cuts from the Tories.

We need to prepare our members to fight back, and we need a NEC which will lead a sustained, serious campaign for above-inflation pay rises, full funding and an end to casualisation and marketisation.

As it stands, college principals in England are free to ignore the pay recommendations of the employers’ association. Disaggregated ballots have succeeded in forcing individual college bosses to concede better pay deals. We can build on this in future pay rounds with a dedicated campaign for binding national pay bargaining alongside a pay campaign.

This should be as a step towards reversing privatisation and bringing colleges back to local authorities, under genuine democratic control.

‘Tough choices’

The Tories have devastated FE and we want them out, but Starmer’s Labour only promises “tough choices”. We should demand that they will fully fund FE, alongside supporting other UCU policies. But we need to be ready to defend our members no matter who is in government. We can put pressure on Labour by declaring that we will support any candidates who support our members and policies.

I am not a supporter of any of the current electoral factions within UCU but will work with all serious activists who want to organise together for a democratic, fighting UCU. 

For a serious national campaign and a leadership that is democratically accountable to members, vote Duncan Moore #1. You can use your second and third votes for the sitting left NEC members Naira Kent and Dharminder Singh Chuhan.