Dr Gareth Brown
I spent most of my twenties involved in environmental direct action, with Earth First! in particular. I returned to full-time education in 2011, undertaking doctoral research that explored the way in which people in political groups collectively imagine more desirable futures. In making the transition to an academic career, I faced multiple precarious contracts. My first piece of UCU casework was my own case: I forced my employer to offer me a permanent contract, setting a precedent that has now benefited a dozen or more colleagues. I am now a lecturer in the School of Business at the University of Leicester.
As co-secretary of Leicester UCU I take on significant amounts of casework. I negotiate with the university’s leadership through our joint negotiation and consultation committee. With my colleagues, we have fought off several threats of significant redundancies and grown our branch three-fold.
Like many of the newer activists involved in UCU, I bring to my local branch my wealth of experience from activist movements outside of academia. Be it through the involvement of migrant workers, activists who feel passionately about climate change, or veterans of the anti-tuition fees campaigns, our call for social, economic and educational justice is making our union more dynamic.
But we are tired of the staid factionalism that has ossified many of UCU’s democratic structures. I stand as a non-aligned candidate. I stand for all the members who have suffered as their managers have failed to follow legal process or basic codes of common sense and human decency.
The adversarial nature of UCU’s decision-making must change. The modern left strives for consensus wherever possible. We take the maximum number of people forward, together. This is how we organise in our branches. We must now do so in our national structures. As part of the union’s officer team, chairing our union’s most important internal committees and negotiating teams, this is what I will strive for.
I will also work to place environmental issues at the heart of our union. Our industry has a huge environmental footprint. Our pension schemes have enormous financial investments in unsustainable energy production. As a union we must champion environmental issues – and force our employers to become a force for ecological sustainability and human well-being.
We often hear “build the union!” and “grow the movement!”. But we must do this together. My experience of organising grassroots movements through consensus will be vital to my time as an officer of the union. With a reinvigorated Tory government, shameless Vice Chancellors, and a political landscape ravaged by austerity and COVID-19 it is time for us to work together not only to advance members’ interests but also to care for ourselves.