I thought I would share some rambling thoughts I had whilst on UCU training this week. For the first part of the week I attended UCU Rep training. The UCU is the union that represents academic staff within FE and HE, so thats my Union. The others are Unite and Unison. I was recently elected to be on the Union Exec committee, not something that I had ever had any aspirations of doing, but when they announced that there were vacancies, I thought why not? and I’m glad I did.
I don’t have a particular axe to grind with Southampton, I love working there. I love the people I have met, have made lifelong friends, and found some amazing and inspirational people who have the same passion that I do for teaching, and for innovation. So being on the Union exec for me, isn’t about being angry or creating a fuss, its about looking after those people, and making sure that they have a great place to work and ensuring that we all have our voices heard. Academia is a wonderful creative space, its not a regular business and understanding that makes a huge difference. I just read this blog post (below) and it explains a lot about how Unions operate, as collective and not individuals:
“Trade unionism is not about blocking change, it is not about preventing people making money; it is about ensuring that the people who make the money play fair by those who are essential to the process of it being made. A healthy/happy workforce is a productive one; trained, skilled and well-paid workers are more likely to stay. Those treated badly or unfairly lower morale for all and whilst they may leave, few benefit from their departure, at least in the short-term.” ( Impolite Conversation, Dom Kingsmill-Stocker)
The training we had was excellent. I met some really interesting people and learnt a lot about how unions work and actually some of the skills that we were taught are also very useful for me within my own work across the University. I went with another colleague from the University and the training helped us to see how we can all work together, as a union for the benefit of the colleagues at Southampton.
One thing that stood out for me was that we really have a very well organised UCU local branch. Many institutions don’t have a room to meet in, let alone a house! We have a brilliant Branch organised by Amanda Bitouche, with great colleagues on the Exec. The training has geared us up to be more proactive and bring a focus to our roles. It was really good and we hope that we can find the time to maintain the great community feel to the UCU in Southampton.
I think being in the Union is a cool thing to do. #getinvolved!
As an aside, its disappointing, but essential that members come together to support the Strike on December 3rd. Full details are here. #FairPayinHE – All three Unions have come together, this isn’t a selfish strike. Many of the people on strike want fairer pay for all levels of staff.