Friday, 24 December 2010

Call for nominations to National Executive Council (NEC), Higher Education General Seat

Membership number: 5260154

Branch No. 20055

24th December 2010

Dear colleague,

RE: Nominate Max Watson - Chair of London Metropolitan University Branch, and NEC Higher Ed General Seat – for a fighting, democratic union!

Thank you to all those branches that nominated me in the recent by election – I am pleased to report that I successfully contested the election and have attended my first NEC meeting. I am writing (again) to seek nominations to the Higher Education General Seat of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC).

We are in the middle of an enormous struggle against cuts and the wholesale privatisation of Higher Education: our students have been showing the way in the fight against fees and the scrapping of EMA. Winning the by-election in November confirmed that our members want to see their union at the forefront of the resistance to these cuts. As Chair of London Met University Branch, members and activists are well aware of my history as an energetic campaigner – a fighting, militant union activist. Being elected was a vindication of our campaign’s central message: we need to step up a gear in the fight against the cuts and in defending education.

In our 2009 dispute my branch took action against cuts and won significant concessions: we stopped the outsourcing of IT and saved 200 jobs. Our branch continues to be dynamic and responsive to our members needs, engaging new activists and growing in membership: we have a full compliment of officers, our members are confident of our own strength and voice. We rejected the pay offer by 81% and our members have again shown a willingness to take further industrial action – at packed branch meetings recently, 100 members voted unanimously for taking action over compulsory redundancies.

I believe members of UNISON are willing to take action – whether over pensions, pay or against cuts – if the union is willing to show real leadership. Our time is now: this is a crucial year to coordinate action against the cuts. As well as build for the 26th March demo, we must also prepare for coordinated industrial action with our sister unions in the public sector.

I’m an independent, unaligned socialist; I’m not a member of any party. I am a supporter of UNISON United Left and believe in a democratic, lay member led union. I believe the establishment inside UNISON must end the sectarian witch-hunt against left activists so we can focus on building unity in the fight against the neo liberal Con-Dem government.

Unity with students’ movement
In November, I was also elected as a representative of education workers onto the steering committee of the Education Activist Network (EAN), which has been central to mobilising the recent protests against the cuts and increase in fees. I believe the key to winning in the fight against cuts is building strong alliances with the students’ movement and our communities as well as with our sister unions.

Locally, our branch showed genuine support for our students went they went into occupation, buying them food, donating money and collecting money in our workplaces; helping organise lectures; providing advice and moral support when needed. Our members have been cheering on the students and joining them on demonstrations and when we will take action next year, which we’re bound to need to, we can expect full support from the students in return. Our fight is their fight.

On 9th December, the day of the vote on fees, our members took to the streets to march to Parliament alongside the students’ just as we did with pride on the 10th November.

These cuts are a challenge, but I genuinely believe we should see this new era as an organising opportunity – a chance to make ourselves relevant to a whole new generation; to be attractive to young workers and students, to show them that we too have vast experience and they should naturally gravitate towards us. Our union could be increasing our membership and lowering our average age in the next period if we put ourselves at the centre of the resistance to the cuts – but only if we show courage and determination, be bolder, more radical, as the students have been.

Living Wage and outsourced workers
We’ve also begun a Living Wage campaign at London Met. I believe the union must throw its full weight behind organising outsourced workers in the public sector. Contracted out staff, sometimes called the ‘Hidden Workforce’, are the most vulnerable and have the most to gain from union membership. The best way to win back in-house is by organising the workers themselves. I’ve met cleaners who have won the Living Wage and are speaking confidently and with pride as UNISON activists, and am proud to say our campaign at London Met is showing real potential to win – just as they won at UCL, SOAS, Birkbeck, UEL and 10 other London Universities.

Unite Against Fascism
I recently chaired a meeting at London Met, to launch the beginning of a ‘Unite Against Fascism’ student society and our branch actively, successfully opposed the racist BNP in nearby Barking and Dagenham in the elections last year.

Solid activist track record
Since joining in 2006, on my first day at work, I’ve gone on to serve our branch as Young Members officer, a steward, Assistant Secretary, and for the last 18 months as Chair. I’m proud our branch had a strong record of resistance and our members are keenly engaged in what we do: whether it’s with our widely praised campaign against stress or fighting job cuts, or talking to one another in discussion forums online, our branch is healthy and dynamic and has well attended branch meetings and socials. I believe good communication is a fundamental part of our union organising: my branch has a lively ‘Facebook group’, a great website, with our own ‘Youtube channel’ and I write a weekly email to all members with news, events and activities to get involved with: http://www.londonmetunison.org.uk/

In between leading another local campaign against job cuts at London Met, getting involved with the EAN and local anti-cuts networks, I also managed to win the election to the NEC in November. Since then, I attended my first NEC in December, and my first committee meetings will be after I send out this letter. I cannot report back too much yet, but read reports and find out a bit more about me, by visiting my website: http://maxwatsonunison.blogspot.com/

You can also contact me via:


Please also feel free to invite me to speak to you branch committee if you wish to meet me or hear for me in person. If you would prefer to write me a letter the good old fashioned way, please get in touch and I will send you my address.

Please note the nomination period opens on 11th January and closes on the 18th February 2011, so you can only nominate during that period. Please also nominate Carole Hanson, from Brighton University, who is standing for the Female Higher Education seat.

Nominate Max Watson to re-elect a dynamic, fighting candidate with a strong track record of activism. It’s time for a change in direction, with ‘new blood’ on the NEC. And contact me to find out how else you can get involved in our growing campaign for a fighting, democratic union.

In solidarity,

Max Watson

Thanks for taking the time to read this – I know how busy you all are. If you haven’t received a nomination form by 11th January, 2011, please call: 0845 355 0845 or visit: http://www.unison.org.uk/elections/

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