Ahead of the Special Congress to discuss the recommendations of the Democracy Commission, we wanted to set out the position of the SUCU delegates in discussion with the branch president.
The Democracy Commission is an elected panel of UCU members who have spent the last 12 months discussing in long meetings (the minutes of which are publicly available here and have been circulated to members) the structures and democracy of the union. The Commission was set up following motions submitted to 2018 Congress, one of them Sheffield’s, and we have two members (Sam Morecroft and Jess Meacham) who sat on Commission.
The progress of the Commission’s work has been at times slower than we would have all liked. This is, as ever, an issue of resources and facilities time and workload. You can read the minutes of all the meetings and the various reports that have been issued here.
At Sheffield we have reported back regularly in branch meetings about the progress of the Commission’s work and we have held two stand alone meetings specifically to invite members to come along and discuss the issues and proposals. We have also asked members to contact us via other means with any thoughts they have about this.
We recently held an EGM at which more than 100 members came to discuss the progress of our current industrial action and questions of union democracy were prominent in the discussion. We are under no illusion that active union members want to avoid any re-run of the events of 2018 and we see the recommendations of the Democracy Commission as an important step in what should be an ongoing conversation among all of us about how representative democracy functions within the union.
We understand that Unite, who represent staff working for UCU, have expressed some concerns over the content of the Democracy Commission’s report. We understand there are two main issues here, one of which is the terms and conditions of the General Secretary’s role and the terms and conditions of other existing staff. The Democracy Commission has made every effort to ensure that our written outputs have been mindful of the potential concerns that Unite might have had, and have been qualified accordingly in writing. It was and is the intent of the Democracy Commission that these issues should be considered carefully by all parties and in line with the relevant recognition agreement should these changes be passed by the Special Congress.
We would like to take the opportunity to remind members that the current General Secretary was elected based on a manifesto that stated the following:
“I not only promise to abide by any rule changes agreed by Congress and other relevant parties: I strongly encourage Congress delegates to vote for all of the recommended changes to the GS’s role that have been put forward.”
We are looking forward to the discussion in Manchester in Saturday and hope that all parties involved in the Special Congress will work together constructively to debate and vote on these very important issues.