When is ok to publicly critique (some part of UCU) and when isn’t it? I’m never 100% sure because sometimes it feels that if I do it, it’s wrong, but when the people who tell me I’m wrong do it, it’s fine.
As is common with people, how one feels about the target also seems to play a big role in the whether public criticism violates solidarity or is part of a robust feedback mechanism.
Per usual, I can only speak for me.
UCU is engaging with the Labour Party conference. In spite of some big ass problems, I think this is the right move. I do believe that this is a live question:
The Labour Party’s apparent tolerance of trans- and biphobic views from a sitting MP prompts us to ask whether we, other groups, charities, or organisations, or indeed trade unions, can currently support or canvas for the Labour Party while it platforms harmful narratives and hostility towards trans and bi people.
I tend to think that the answer is, unfortunately, “yes” though I understand why people might answer otherwise. My general theory of party and electoral politics is “harm minimization” which involves a lot of lessor of two evils moves and uncomfortable alliances. My observations of the US Democratic Party’s evolution is that being a reliable part of the coalition (however vocally critical) tends to produce more change than exiting. Of course, there’s plenty of work to be done outside the party on things like trans rights, so it’s not the only way. But it can help.
Indeed, I think we should affiliate. UCU would be in a much better position to push for trans issues in Labour if it were part of Labour. But it ain’t an easy call.
Ok, so this is already fraught. But then we have UCU central posting photos of General Secretary Jo Grady addressing a Young Labour meeting and…almost no one is masked. There’s a later fringe UCU event that was advertised as masked, but photos suggest not so much. We later find out that attendees are supposed to be fully vaccinated or have a recent negative test which…is better than nothing, but not ideal.
This is obviously not a good look or a good move, esp given that many branches (and UCU central!) is trying to get more robust measures in place in universities. My personal reaction is inflected both by the fact that I generally like UCU and Jo Grady, I generally hate UCU comms, and I really am worried about lack of masking and other safety measures. From a personal perspective, it feels like something unpleasant and unfortunately that I have to swallow (as a clinically odd person).
So, step up your game, please. I know it’s challenging but that’s true all around.
On the flip side, I notice that at least some of the people I observe saying things to the effect that this is a gift to the employers, I did not observe complaining about 2 USS negotiators being cited by employers as saying that the UCU proposals were not viable. I’ve not highlighted this at the time though I am still quite upset about it. In one case we have, essentially, bad comms. In the other, we have possible sabotage of negotiations to force a dispute.
In reality, I’d be surprised if my local H&S negotiators would find UCU Centrals fuck up a material issue. “But Jo Grady went unmasked!!!” is pretty easily countered by “But they were all vaccinated or tested” (which is not the case at universities) or even “She should have done better”. Or even “One off events are different than full time work.”
So there you are. I can now stand (masked) in the middle of a room and everyone has a reason to throw unicorn pony buns at me!
Yes, unicorn ponies are my thing now.