Reading UCU Officer Election Statements

Secretary
Simone Knox
I have been employed at the university of Reading for over 15 years. During this time I have been an active trade unionist and have been the RUCU treasurer for a decade. My experience of union work is varied, including leading on important campaigns in our local branch and being a casework rep.
I believe in democracy and transparency within the union, and see unions as a great force for social justice.
As Secretary I will make sure that we hold regular meetings, committee and all-members, with a focus on inclusion and democratic debate. Minutes of all meetings will be made available for all members to see.
I will provide accurate, full and timely information that allows for reasonable and sensible decision-making, particularly in relation to phase 2 of cuts and changes.

Membership secretary
Pil and Galia Kollectiv (job share)
We have been working at the University of Reading as lecturers in art for 11 years. With the university embarking on a programme of more cuts and changes, we would like to ensure we have a strong union that can hold management accountable and oppose the processes of casualisation, marketisation and outsourcing that threaten our future security. Using our experience of audience development in the arts, we want to build our membership and find new ways of facilitating members’ contributions at this crucial juncture so we can have a say in the university’s future.
We both have extensive experience of working as lecturers in other institutions. As parents juggling childcare with part time working and job-sharing, we have been especially conscious of the challenges faced by employees with caring responsibilities. We have been members of UCU for a long time, but recent struggles have driven us to get more involved in the union by becoming departmental representatives.
In our time working in higher education, we have witnessed a drastic erosion of the status and rights of both academic and non-academic staff. We have seen workloads increase, pensions shrink and job security threatened. We have also seen local power taken from departments through ‘efficiency exercises’, which have made it harder for us to deliver excellent research and teaching.
As joint membership secretaries, we would hope to represent the needs of a diverse workforce and encourage more staff members to join RUCU and make our university more equitable and resilient.

Vice‑president
John Russell
I have been an active member of UCU at Reading for the past decade, as both departmental rep and as committee member. I work full-time in the Department of Art teaching studio practice and art history and working as Director of teaching and learning
My aim as RUCU Vice President will be to ensure that forthcoming negotiations with University Management focus on the increasingly pressurised and stressful conditions under which all staff in the University are working. This includes additional workloads and deadlines, erosion of pensions as well as constant anxiety about job security.
In response to the Covid Pandemic, all staff (academic, professional and administrative) have worked beyond their contracted hours to get students through remote teaching, exams and re-sits; to respond to the chaotic admissions situation; to ensure successful recruitment; and to plan and organise content that is timetabled and delivered both online and face-to-face. As a parent of two children under sixteen, I am also aware of the added pressure of providing childcare around working from home. Added to all of this, staff efforts were met in the summer with threats of redundancy and pay cuts. We need a working environment where there is an equal commitment to the well-being of both staff and students, where there is a recognition of the pressures of workload, an understanding of safety and a provision of resources.
With our return to campus RUCU must work to create a situation where ALL STAFF feel supported, safe and valued in their efforts to provide students with the excellent educational opportunities they deserve – and which Reading has historically delivered.

President
Deepa G Driver
As an experienced union rep, negotiator and branch organiser, I seek your vote so I can serve you as Branch President of Reading UCU. Our students tell us that their relationship with us, as staff, is what most enriches their education at the University of Reading. Yet, many colleagues across the University feel undervalued, disenfranchised and exhausted by doing tasks that don’t contribute to education or research. I believe RUCU can and must work to rebalance workloads and make our University an inclusive, progressive environment to work in.
I have a strong track record in leading people and being a stakeholder advocate. My skills have been honed through my career in regulation, in industry and as a finance academic. I have also learned from local RUCU organising; activism within the community as chair of a grassroots group; as legal observer in 2 complex whistleblowing-related trials this year; and through a range of national UCU roles including as an elected member of the national executive, as a national pensions negotiator and as member of UCU’s legal panel. As a Black, disabled woman, I have lived experience of the structural barriers that our students and colleagues face daily.
As RUCU President, I want to apply this knowledge to building our union branch and to improving University governance such that it enables adequate staffing and resourcing, job security, reasonable workloads, good pay, safe pensions and an inclusive workplace. In the year ahead, with your vote, I will work alongside colleagues to build an RUCU that prioritises your needs and serves you in a transparent, supportive and accountable way.

HOW TO FIND YOUR BALLOT LINK The email with the ballot link came from ‘yoursay@ucu.org.uk‘ (Reading UCU) with the subject title ‘Reading UCU officer elections’ on Tuesday 25th May at about 17:46. If you can’t find it, please remember to check your junk/spam inbox too.

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