Max Watson, London Metropolitan University Branch
Membership number: 5260154
12 July 2010
I am seeking nominations to the Higher Education General Seat of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC). We all know we’re in for a very rough ride under the Con-Dem government – the question is how much of a fight are we prepared to put up? I am currently Chair of London Metropolitan University Branch, and have been for the last year during one of the most dramatic disputes seen in a Higher Education institution, which was not a complete victory but certainly saved hundreds of jobs. I’m used to standing up to ‘unprecedented’ attacks.
Nationally coordinated action
It is clearly necessary for our union to take determined national industrial action if we are to face up to the current challenges of a Con-Dem government – as recently acknowledged by our Deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnet, in a report to our NEC. We must be committed to forging new and strengthening existing alliances with other public sector trade unions and community groups. And as the second biggest union in the TUC we should make sure the TUC coordinates national industrial action and demonstrations.
At London Met we took strike action last year in defence of jobs and against outsourcing. We completely stopped the outsourcing of IT, a key part of their proposals, and reduced the job cuts by 200 (and despite threatening ‘wide-scale’ compulsories, in the end they made less than 50). One of the keys to our campaign success was unity in action with both the UCU and the Students’ Union.
Since our campaign of action last year, our branch has gone from strength to strength because we set out to organise for action. Today our members continue to show a willingness to take action: in the consultation this summer, our branch sent ballot papers to all our members, and won a ‘Yes’ vote on all three questions: 66% ‘Yes’ for striking over pay; 77% ‘Yes’ to strike over national job security, and 87% ‘Yes’ to striking over local redundancies. We should be able to replicate these results nationally with a fighting leadership.
Another key to good organising is good communication. Under my branches leadership, we have pioneered the effective use of new media – our new website is seen as exemplary in our region (http://www.londonmetunison.org.uk) and it’s widely praised by our members. The ‘Save London Met’ campaign website – which I set up and managed in 2009 – is now mirrored as a template throughout the HE sector: (http://www.savelondonmetuni.blogspot.com). We have revived our branch newsletter, and we even have our own ‘YouTube’ channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/unisonlondonmet).
We know that women and black workers and students will be hardest hit by the Tory onslaught – at London Met it was the same. We fought tooth and nail to defend our nursery, for example; watch our most popular film online to get a taste of that campaign: ‘Save Hornsey Road Nursery’.
Educate, Agitate, Organise
Before being elected Chair I was Assistant Secretary, and before that, Young Members officer. I’ve been a member of UNISON since starting work at London Met, in Feb 2006. I was catapulted into our branch leadership because I showed a willingness to fight. So I was thrown in at the deep end and have since then demonstrated my ability to agitate, educate and, crucially, to organise. I have inspired several new activists to get involved too, and our exec committee is full of energetic, enthusiastic activists. Our exec meets every two weeks, and our AGM is well attended - we had five reps go to the HE Service Group conference, and three to National Delegates Conference.
In the last two weeks alone, we have recruited two new shop stewards on to our committee. Membership is on the up, despite last year’s jobs bloodbath. One full-time official who came to our AGM told me it the best attended they had seen, that our branch was ‘blossoming’.
Democracy and accountability
This year our branch formally registered our dismay at the witch-hunt of leftists in UNISON, writing to protest against the unjustified take over of Greenwich, Bromley and Tenants Services Authority branches. I’m not in the Socialist Party, the SWP or the Labour Party: I am an independent socialist and a member of the United Left network. A union is not a political party – we must celebrate differences of opinion and encourage open debate, not stifle it. Pursuing politically motivated disciplinary action against committed activists is a terrible waste of resources when we face attacks on a scale never seen before. We need all of our activists and staff of our union working together to fight the Con-Dem attacks on us. United we stand, divided we fall.
To sum up, I’m an old fashioned union militant, but not old. I’m dynamic and of the left, but not dogmatic. I can educate, agitate, organise and inspire others around me to do the same.
Nominate ‘Max Watson, London Metropolitan University’ for a fighting candidate on the NEC who will speak up on your behalf.
Thanks for taking the time to read this – I know how busy you all are. Please also find the time to nominate before the tight deadline of 6th August. If you haven’t received a nomination form yet, call: 0845 355 0845 or visit: http://www.unison.org.uk/elections/