Three jostle for top job

8th December 2006 at 00:00

Candidates are vying to be boss of new union

The battle lines are drawn for the election of the leader of the new University and College Union (UCU).

Nominations have closed for the post of general secretary of the lecturers'

union. The contenders are Sally Hunt, Roger Kline and Peter Jones. The ballot is expected to take place between February 7 and March 7.

The UCU was formed by the merger of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe) and the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in June, creating a 118,000-member union - the biggest in post-16 education.

Since then, it has been led by joint general secretaries Paul Mackney and Sally Hunt. Early this year Mr Mackney, who previously led Natfhe, announced his decision not to run for leadership of the UCU for health reasons.

Sally Hunt, 42, has more than 17 years' experience as a senior union official. She was elected general secretary of the AUT at the age of 36.

She has been the union's lead negotiator on pay and pensions, and her responsibilities have included industrial relations, merger negotiations with Natfhe, and union finances.

Ms Hunt is known for her campaigning on sex equality and has called for more support for older workers. On her UCU election blog site, she says the union should focus on issues such as pay, pensions and workload. She also wants union resources to go towards improving services at local level and not on internal union bureaucracy.

Roger Kline, 58, has been a union official for 18 years. He is UCU's head of equality and employment rights, and had previously been Natfhe's head of higher education.

He has the backing of outgoing general secretary Paul Mackney and is seen as a strong challenger to Ms Hunt. Mr Kline has represented staff in higher education, the health service and in airlines, where his successes include winning union recognition at easyJet.

His wish list for the UCU includes putting more union resources to the front line, with better support and training for local union reps, extending national bargaining to local authority, adult and community educators, and targeting extra support to remaining FE colleges where new pay scales are not in place.

Peter Jones, a 56-year-old lecturer at Deeside college in North Wales, is seen as the outsider in the race. He has been an active member of Natfhe since he was a student teacher in 1986.

Having worked in adult, higher and further education, he is staking a claim to represent rank-and-file union members and aims to provide a voice for further education amid fears that higher education will dominate the UCU.

Whichever candidate wins, one issue that will remain firmly on the agenda is FE lecturers' call for equal pay with teachers in schools.

It is estimated that they fall behind by about 10 per cent and their claim has intensified as colleges have increasingly been called upon to teach 14 to 16-year-olds from schools.

In their own words.

Roger Kline

I have met 30 groups of our members in further and adult education since September. Their message is loud and clear: action is needed to address excessive workloads and paperwork, uncertain job security, and low pay.

Practical steps are needed to stop the damaging erosion of professional respect for lecturing staff.

We need a union which speaks for staff with authority and determination, acting as the guardian of all that is best in education.

If elected, I will build on the work I am already doing to: Ensure the voice of FE is an equal, not a junior partner, in our new union.

Make reducing workloads in adult education and FE a top priority using both collective action and the law.

Defend adult education provision, including Esol, through local action and national lobbying.

Improve the pay, conditions and job security of hourly paid fixed-term and part-time staff as I did in HE.

Ensure the eight-point pay scale, and pay parity with school teachers, is achieved everywhere without any links to performance-related pay.

Work relentlessly to force employers to implement the new statutory equality rights for staff.

Sally Hunt

Natfhe and the AUT had fine traditions but I helped create UCU because we can do better together.

This means better services for members, better support on pay, pensions and workloads, and better lobbying.

I understand the challenges we face in FE. National strikes have become an annual event, yet members still earn less than teachers in sixth forms, schools and universities and one-third of colleges have not implemented the 2003 pay deal.

Let us make a fresh start. In the AUT, I doubled the staff available to deal with members' problems locally. In the UCU, my focus will be on ensuring every member has access to professional support.

I will launch a public campaign that spells out the unfairness of the current funding. Together with you, I will reach out to those FE teachers who were not members of Natfhe to join UCU and make us stronger.

I have been honoured to be general secretary of AUT since 2002 and, jointly, UCU since the merger. I am the only candidate with the experience of leading a union and I will use this to bring us together.

I hope that you will support me with your vote and by helping build a better, stronger, more credible union.

Peter Jones

The UCU should be a member-led union, which is responsive to the needs of its members at branch and regional level, whether they are a professor in an illustrious university or a dance instructor working in a church hall in a Welsh village.

It means scrapping a "twin-track" approach to negotiations and working for the members to bring about national terms and conditions in all sectors in which we organise.

The equality agenda means we can readily fight the prejudice and discrimination shown by management in the way they treat our members. Also, for society in general, so that we can all live and work in a community where everything but intolerance is tolerated. But the equality agenda is not just about race, nor is it just about gender, or disability, or the plight of part-time workers. It is about educators working in an environment which breeds tolerance - and that starts with how the UCU treats its own members.

I have worked in the education sector, in adult education. I understand all the issues and problems facing educators.

I know what it's like to be on a picket line, I know what it's like to lose your pay, I know what it's like to be sacked for being a trade union activist.

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