Tuesday, 13 January 2015


To:       All Higher Education UNISON Branches,

Dear Branch Secretary / colleagues,


I'm seeking nominations for the Higher Education General Seat of the NEC, a seat I've held since 2010.
I'm currently Branch Secretary of London Metropolitan University Branch. Since 2008 I've played a leading role in my branch and we've achieved a great deal, including:
·         Leading a fight against job cuts in 2009 and in 2011;  in 2009 we took three days strike action alongside the UCU, stopping the outsourcing proposals and saving 200 jobs; in 2011 we doubled the redundancy pay and the university opened a voluntary redundancy scheme when we took strike action;
·         Successfully campaigning for the Living Wage in 2011. In 2014, London Met was accredited as a Living Wage Employer due to our persistence. Our outsourced cleaners, catering staff and security guards are all well organised now, with reps in each area and a high density;
·         Stopping a massive 'Shared Services' / privatisation proposal in 2012, which would have been an unprecedented private contract in the sector
·         Campaigning against the deportation of 2,000+ overseas students when the UKBA withdrew our Highly Trusted Sponsor status in 2012; we won an injunction and the students were allowed to continue their studies here;
·         I was then suspended for five weeks in 2013, threatened with dismissal with two others, which lead to a huge campaign against trade union victimisation which we won; we were reinstated and I'm still active our workplace despite ongoing attacks. We submitted an Employment Tribunal claim for trade union victimisation and although unsuccessful we have an imminent Appeal hearing.
We've many new reps and activists as a result of these campaigns and struggles and have a healthy, lively branch, with regular events and a strong shop stewards committee taking on case work on the front line on a daily basis.  On top of these branch responsibilities I've also played a lead role in two major national disputes:

1)         Pensions
Taking a robust line to defend the LGPS in 2011; I objected vigorously to the sell-out particularly for those of us who are not protected by being closer to retirement. The HE Service Group Exec was the only part of the entire union to call for a 'reject' vote for the shoddy proposals and I'm proud of that. We should never have agreed to have separate negotiations over the different schemes which divided the TUC unions. USS is being attacked and some universities are moving to opt out of their pension obligations altogether.

2)         Pay
In 2013-2014, UNISON's Higher Education Service Group, with our sister unions in the sector, lead a courageous dispute over pay and it paid off. We won a two per cent increase after three days strike action and the threat of action short of a strike by the UCU. There were difficulties – and two percent does not cover the cost of living increases we've witnessed over the years – but we came away with our heads held high.

We won movement toward the Living Wage and ultimately we were the first part of the public sector to 'break the pay freeze' thanks to our hard line. I believe we could have won much more if we had escalated earlier and been bolder from the beginning, rather that keep things on the 'slow burner' which is why we started losing support when it dragged on.

Further attacks include: tuition fees and drastic cuts to HE funding; attacks on international students; constant restructures and job cuts; outsourcing and the privatisation of our entire sector; national bargaining at risk and de-recognition of our union is a reality in some places.

With these challenges, our union needs a strong, fighting leadership with experience in resisting these kinds of attacks both nationally and locally. If re-elected I'll continue to consistently call for a fighting, democratic union, and seek to 'Reclaim our Union'.

Please get in touch about any of the above if you want to find out more and if you want to invite me to speak at your branch I'm more than happy to visit.
Please forward this letter to your branch committee and put the NEC elections on the agenda before 20th February 2015 (5pm).

Also, I'd encourage you to nominate Tomasa Bullen, Southampton District branch (membership number 1574876) for the Higher Education Female Seat. See attached also a nomination form which the branch secretary needs to fill out.

In solidarity,

Max Watson
Membership number: 5260154

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