Friday, 24 December 2010

Students Xmas Carol and Xmas solidarity greetings

I sent this round to our branch recently and found it also on Jon Roger's blog here. Good luck, comrade, in your branch's fight against cuts in the new year. Good luck also to Paul Holmes with the five day strike at Kirklees council, also against job cuts, in the new year. I hope everyone has a well deserved break: Eat, drink, be merry, and I'll see you all in the new year fresh and ready to take on the yellow-Tory government.

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:

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:

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:

Friday, 10 December 2010

Is Aaron Porter dead in the water?

Last night, we were being crushed in a kettle so badly, at one point many people – mostly young working class, black, white and Asian teenagers – were shouting to back off and leave us alone. And some began to think the worst: “it’s going to be another Hillsborough, here”. “They’re going to kill us in this crush.”

To our backs; a large brick wall, impassable. To our left; parked police vans with engines running, impassable. In front, riot police baton charging protesters – don’t even try going that way. Turn the other way and there are police mounted on horseback pushing into the young crowd yelling their catch phrase, without irony: "Get back."

"Where can we go?" The police can see, from their mounted horses, that we’re being badly crushed, and the only way out is into the swinging batons of rioting police. Why are they crushing us? They’re ‘just following orders’, as they say (but not in a German accent, you understand).

Whose orders? The political elite, who have given the go ahead to punish protesters who have no vote because they’re too young and yet dared to speak out. Those so-called ‘liberals’ who have said that they would not vote against fees because that would be a capitulation to the student demonstrations.

Instead they would rather we are beaten, crushed and charged at with frightened horses.

I’ve seen terrified young girls crying to be let free. Pregnant young women being charged by horses. I’ve seen bloody heads, and police smirking and even laughing at us as we beg to be let out. I’ve seen teenagers punched in the face by ‘thugs’ – as Sir Paul Stevenson called us this morning – wearing balaclavas but no badges and their numbers covered up.

Ian Tomlinson is the other name the protesters shout at the police as they call for justice. Remember him? I’d be unsurprised if we don’t soon hear the worst, as we nearly have already.

The attack on such a large body of youth has confirmed to us what many already know – that the police are not here for our safety at all. They’re here to protect their safety – the elite, the politicians, the monarchy and their property… They call the shots, and we get repeatedly horse-charged.

And it also has to be said – although I am firmly on the side of organised labour – that some of our trade union ‘leaders’ should be embarrassed about their pathetic ‘rally’ fifteen minutes away, on the Embankment, starring Peter Hain (!), Brendan Barber and Sally Hunt. They spoke to a shrinking crowd of embarrassed trade unionists. Our crew from London Met only lasted ten minutes it was so cringe-worthy. Not to mention the music - described as 'like being at an Uncle's wedding'.

In the words of one disgusted colleague as she left: “What’s this, the middle class protest?!” The speakers continued, meanwhile ignoring the fact their sons and daughters around the corner were being kettled again. What were they thinking? It was only a fifteen minute walk but felt like a million miles from the energy and enthusiasm of the protests - more like a carnival at that point (essential viewing - Paul Mason's 'Dubstep rebellion') - in Parliament square.

Why wasn’t Aaron Porter, the ‘leader’ of the NUS in amongst those students who were demonstrating and celebrating their own movement? Why did Sally Hunt and Aaron Porter turn their backs on those brave youth who entered Parliament Square knowing full well that the police would kettle them as punishment?

If the trade union movement wants to revive itself at this crucial time it should not be writing letters of support to the President of the NUS, it should be on the streets with the youth – who could be our next generation of union leaders. We must get out there and win them over to the ideas that made us strong in the first place: we must educate, agitate and organise those youth. As I’ve argued elsewhere, we are going to simply die out if we don’t make ourselves relevant to the next generation.

We must go to where the fight is, not rally where there are more speakers than listeners. Shame on those police who crush us and even tried to bruise us – but those trade union leaders who turned their back on us as we cried out for justice in Parliament square should also be embarrassed.

As we were held in place in the kettle and looking out for each other, I’ll never forget the sense of solidarity those young students showed to each other: holding each other up, urging each other not to panic as the crush go tighter; lifting those who were struggling up onto a wall where it was slightly safer and making room where there seemed to be none.

A few pockets of exemplary union banners from UNISON showed the way – Manchester Met, SOAS, Birkbeck and London Met were all present alongside dozen or so UCU banners of course, but we’re the ‘usual suspects’. Imagine if UNISON had brought their huge balloon into Parliament square, those youth will go on to instinctively support us when we go into dispute and out on strike as we’re surely going to next year. Where was UNITE and the GMB? These youth will need to join unions in their jobs and they could quickly become stewards and get organised in the workplace as they have done in their schools and colleges. They'd be much more likely to if our support was more tangible, more visible.

As a Naomi Bain, from Birkbeck UNISON, laughed: "While I was kettled (briefly) with a UNISON banner last night, two teenage girls walked past, one pointed at the banner and said "It's SO weird that that's your DAD's union!"."

Let's hope we didn't completely miss a trick and we can show maximum support to this movement. The youth are all saying, ‘this isn’t over’ and talking about their own 1968 - they're expecting us to get involved in the fight back. We have to, it's urgent.

A final word of warning: the rank and file students movement are again talking about a vote of no confidence in Porter as he's abandoned them time and again. Aaron Porter could soon be politically dead in the water. And this is what could happen to union leaders who also fail to deliver in the months and years ahead.
See also an account from a good friend Matthew Cassel, whose photo I nicked, and from 'United Against Police Violence'. Also read this account of a journalist being pulled from his wheelchair.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Smells like teen spirit

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!--Oh! times,
In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once
The attraction of a country in romance!”


In under a month the political landscape has completely changed. Before 1oth November, trade unionists could look you in the eye and grumble 'we can't take action now, we still need to win the arguments first.'

Just try telling young people to be patient... Us activists in Education unions have been watching with total admiration as occupations spread around the country, and school, college and university students have walked out of classes to attend inspirational days of action, bringing cities to a standstill.

These actions were mainly called from the bottom up, since the 10th November demo, by activist groups and spontaneous movements, whilst the leadership of the NUS has been trying to play catch-up to the mood.

Students have organised their own weekly assemblies and all occupations are democratically run. Many journalists have noted the level of democracy at the occupied universities, and listened in awe of their debates, and hoping to see their action catch on. As Paul Holmes, fellow UNISON NEC member rightly says:

"All trade union branches should be inviting students to a branch meeting and trade union activists should visit University demonstrations and 'sit-ins'. We should show mutual support."

One of the things we're doing successfully at London Met is building on the unity between staff and students (see our 'Save London Met' banner with all three union logos and our continued support for their occupation). Rather than remembering 1979, the student occupations I've been to have been discussing 1968, and slogans like 'Students of the world, ignite!'

And whilst us trade unionists are constantly reminded of the anti-union laws to keep us from taking 'wildcat' action, tens of thousands of students have been walking out of classes, risking suspension from school or college.

Some students had to break open gates to join demonstrations in recent weeks. Others had to climb over gates and face down threats from head teachers. They've been 'kettled' and charged by police, beaten and then vilified by the media. And still they march in their thousands, defying authority in a way that is so natural to young people.

Today I attended my first Higher Education Service Group Exec meeting, and tomorrow is my first National Executive Council... I wonder if the inspiring students movement will stir our 'labour leaders' into action.

Whatever happens, I'll see you on 'Day X'.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Vote Sandy Nicholl London seat SGE by-election

For those in the London Region of UNISON’s Higher Education sector there's another by-election being held for the Service Group Executive.

I'm supporting Sandy Nichol for this seat because he's an inspiration, a well respected and experienced activist of a high profile branch (SOAS) with a good record of activism and campaign work; whose members once walked out in solidarity with Sandy when he was victimised and they saw him quickly returned to work; he has years of experience but still has fire in his belly; he is also funny and intelligent and can talk to anybody on the level; he does an excellent job as Chair of London Region Higher Education Committee too, and I hope very much to be able to join him as a co-representative of HE on the Service Group Exec for Higher Ed.

I'll never forget National Delegates Conference, 2009 when I was a delegate for the first time, and hearing Sandy speak passionately against a raid at SOAS and the deportation of some cleaners who'd been organised by his branch.

The solidarity his branch showed with those cleaners facing deportation was exemplary: they'd won a recognition agreement, as well as a Living Wage, and since then branch after branch in London has learned the lessons of their struggle and gone on to win a Living Wage.

Sandy has a large number of nominating branches - indicating his strong standing in the sector, and I've no doubt he'll do very well. But hat doesn't mean we can take this election for granted.

I urge you to not only vote for Sandy but go out and actively campaign for him too.

Monday, 15 November 2010

A new era has begun (results)

We did it! Winning this NEC by-election has vindicated the work of all the activists who went out over the last few weeks to talk to our members about fighting back and winning.

[UPDATE 17.11.2010: We increased the turnout to 11.4%, which is key to our success: we mobilised members to vote in an election they wouldn't normally notice. So, we convinced 2,012 members to vote for the fighting candidate, Max Watson, whilst Wendy Craig also got a (relatively high) 1,867 - pretty close! So, out of all the NEC by-elections, this was the highest turnout (ranging from 2% to 10%). That's partly due to so much going on in Higher Ed, and with such deep cuts to our sector (and local disputes over job cuts), members are angry enough to elect a fighting representative. It's also partly due to our very proactive campaign, which reached members that other candidates couldn't reach ... so thanks again for all the support.]

We must believe we can win this fight back against the government just as we believed we could win this election.

Last week students and education workers not only smashed the windows of Millbank Tower but also shattered any illusions that we would accept these ConDem cuts without a fight.

In the summer I had been told when I announced I'd stand that Higher Education UNISON members are a conservative lot, (with a small 'c' obviously), and that we'd never get a left candidate onto the NEC.

By winning this seat, we've also smashed that myth to bits.

We're in a new era: members of UNISON will be looking to those who are willing to lead a fight back. Those not willing or able to get involved in this resistance, those who haven't the stomach to stand up to the ConDem onslaught, should step aside and let others take their place.

A Million thanks to everyone who voted and especially those who campaigned for a 'fighting, democratic UNISON', for a candidate committed to speaking up on your behalf, and to leading a fight back against the ConDem cuts.

I promise not to do a Clegg - I'll be keeping to my pledges as I'm now mandated to do. To keep an eye on me - make sure I don't sell you all out! - you should email me; be my Facebook 'Friend'; and I'm still getting the hang of it but if you're a Twitter then 'follow' me at, for updates and reports from the NEC.

We're still waiting for the full results, which I'll post as soon as I get them. For the other NEC by-election results, check out Marsha-Jane's blog first, as they're not supposed to be on UNISON's website until 17th (whoops)!

Commiserations to all the other left candidates, and of course to Wendy Craig who I met recently in Birmingham and I wish all the best fighting the cuts up in Newcastle.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Liar, Liar, pants on fire...

An unlikely 'hat tip' to John Gray, who campaigned to defeat me and all others on the left in the by elections. Just waiting for the results now. Shame I didn't get to vote myself as the ballot arrived too late ... but I doubt it'll be decided by just one vote. And never mind the ballots - let's get organised! Among several other events over next few weeks, I'll be at this 'Reclaim the Union' rally on 13th November. See you there?

Friday, 15 October 2010

Thanks for the inspiration

A short note to say thanks to all the supporters who’ve given some of their own time in the last three weeks campaigning for a fighting candidate to win this NEC by-election.

It’s been great going around and meeting you all, and talking about how we are going to resist the cuts – from Brighton to Birmingham, from South Bank to Banksy, the campaign really has been inspiring for me.

  • Have you seen this website after reading the election address or a leaflet?
  • Want to get involved in building a grass roots network of activists in the HE sector?
  • Want to donate to cover the costs of printing and travel?
  • Want some more postcards to hand out?

Let me know - get in touch via email, Facebook or Union Book.



Monday, 4 October 2010

Andrew Beech: I'm supporting Max Watson because...

"I'm supporting Max Watson because to me he is what every trade unionist should be: a fighter, an activist and a person who cares about his members and their fight for decent working conditions."
Andrew Beech
Liverpool John-Moore's University, Branch Secretary
Higher Education Service Group Executive member (in a personal capacity)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Marching against Tory cuts in Birmingham

Had a great demo today in Birmingham against the Tory cuts – despite the relentless rain.

Saw dozens of UNISON branch banners and met up with HE activists from Birmingham, SOAS and Manchester Metropolitan. Heard all about their goings on as well as of course, handing out hundreds of leaflets.

The most encouraging conversation was with a UCU member carrying this beautiful banner (left), of the William Morris style. At the beginning of term time, he told me, they usually have about ten new students enrolled onto the introduction to shop stewards training course. This term they had 31 - a really good sign that people are getting involved.

The BBC reports Mark Serwotka, of the PCS, spoke about strike action to "turn the tide" against the cuts:

"Strikes are inevitable. We are stronger if we get together. Striking together will not just happen on its own. We need to plan it now. We need our union stewards meeting now in every town and every city and we've got to start planning."

If only UNISON had backed this march and our leadership were making similar calls to action...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A new movement is born

I spoke at a ‘QMUL against the cuts’ meeting on Thursday then spent yesterday dealing with casework and my day job.

Other speakers at the meeting included from UNISON (Vik Chechi), UCU (Rick Saull) and students union reps from Queen Mary’s – good to see a united campaign between the staff and students beginning to develop there as elsewhere, though all in personal capacity and not a formally backed by their branches (yet).

Also heard from Steve White, a local FBU rep who talked about the London firefighters' dispute against shift pattern changes. Like the tube dispute, this is all about safety. The Fire Authority want to close fire stations on the night shift - this dispute could well be a flash point this winter.

Jeremy Watts, of the PCS, spoke about winning the arguments against the cuts. Their alternative to the cuts really is an excellent document with all the necessary arguments. One example: tax avoidance costs the treasury £123B a year, and yet the government are cutting staff at Inland Revenue.

Clare Solomon, of ULU, also spoke about building for the march against cuts to education. Good to have the NUS building for the march, but there will also be a ‘Free education’ feeder march from ULU which I’ll encourage my branch to join.

We had a good, familiar discussion about what to do next: how to build the campaign profile, how to engage more students and staff; to avoid alienating students (too many top table speakers /not relying on Facebook), building union membership (too few members, not enough activists), to affiliate to the Coalition of resistance (or not), and so on...

These meetings are happening all over the country and it really feels as if we're part of a new movement being born.

I hope UNISON will throw it’s weight behind building for the demo against cuts to education, as well as UCU and NUS. After all, UNISON’s position on free education is excellent:
"Access to education is a right for all, not a privilege reserved for those who can pay for it and should therefore be free for all."

I’m going up to Birmingham for the Tory party conference tomorrow. No, not as a delegate, but to join the protest… See you there?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Even the rats are supporting Max Watson...

Sue Gallagher: I'm supporting Max Watson because...

"I'm supporting Max Watson to serve on the NEC because having been an NEC member myself, I know only too well how important it is to have new and truthful blood on the NEC. I truly believe that Max is standing for the right reason - to put Members first. I hope all members with that ethos will vote for Max."

Sue Gallagher,
Retired, Ex Chair of Uni of Birmingham Branch
ex-NEC member (in a personal capacity)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

QMUL organising against the cuts!

Today I went to a rally and leafleting session at Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), to show support for their campaign against "60 and 100" staff that are "likely to be shed".

Their Principal Simon Gaskell apparently wrote to all staff to say: “We must reduce our costs, including those associated with our current staff....”

So tomorrow I'll be speaking at a meeting alongside local UNISON reps and to organise against the cuts. Join their Facebook group, QMUL against Cuts! for details, and see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Supporting Godmsith's Uni Nursery and Living Wage at UCL

Another busy day - went to nearby Goldsmith's to hand out leaflets before work starts (I live nearby). They've got a big campaign to Save their nursery as we did at London Met so I figured we have a lot in common.

Then at lunchtime went to join the Living Wage campaign lobby of UCL. Turned out to be successful - what an important victory. Really inspiring stuff!

I spoke at their lunchtime lobby to show support - we have plenty of members on poverty pay at London Met. And low pay effects not only contracted out cleaners and caterers but so many members of support staff on campus. And with our current pay offer of an insulting 0.4%, all UNISON members are being told to accept another pay cut. We must reject this and show some resolve:

Congratulations to all! We'll have to learn important lessons from the London Living Wage Campaign and we're planning our own campaign at London Met. Watch this space, as they say...

Recruited a new member this morning, had a notice board put up in our office this afternoon, and somehow got some work done during the day. Then went to a meeting of my local Anti-Cut Alliance in Lewisham. These are springing up all over the country and represent a grass roots resistance to the government's slash and burn policies. Why can't the TUC be coordinating strike action as they are elsewhere in Europe?

QMUL against cuts – protest
12pm Wednesday 29 September
Library Square, Mile End campus QMUL

QMUL against cuts – meeting
5pm Thursday 30 September
Room 113, Francis Bancroft Building
Mile End campus QMUL

Monday, 27 September 2010

Defend South Bank University

The campaign has started – ballot opens today. I went to visit London South Bank Uni (LSBU) and handed out some leaflets to a few members who were happy to take some away and give to their work-mates.

Then after work I went to a campaign meeting against the cuts at LSBU.

It had a good feel about it, with lots of debate over tactics; when and how to build a successful campaign against the cuts.

Some felt that LSBU was under a special threat and has some sort of a guinea-pig status, which sounded familiar: only yesterday we’d put out a joint union statement rubbishing the rumours about an imminent threat of bankruptcy of London Met Uni.

I spoke in the meeting about our experience and the need to forge unity between support staff (UNISON), teaching staff (UCU), and students – our key strength at LondonMet is that unity. Got a warm round of applause, of course :)

There was a further discussion about linking up with ‘outside groups’ and community activists such as the Latin American workers association, the local Save our Services group, Education Activist Network, and the CAFC. I also raised one of the strengths of the campaign at Tower Hamlets college last year, which mobilised large local demonstrations and they proved a key weapon in their (successful) fight.

The campaign against cuts at South Bank has the potential to be one of the livelier, key campaigns on campus this year. Watch this space for some kind of action on 12 October.

If we are going to win our struggles against cuts to pay, jobs and services, UNISON must unite with students and UCU, putting aside differences. Why, for example, isn’t UNISON also supporting the National Demo on 10th November against Education cuts?

Tomorrow: Living Wage Campaign Lobby at UCL.

Max Watson for NEC: Election Address

We’re in for a rough ride under the ConDem government and we know it. The question is: how much of a fight will we put up?

As Chair of London Metropolitan University Branch, I’ve been in the eye of the storm over the last couple of years and proven myself willing and able to lead a campaign of action against cuts and outsourcing. We won significant victories – reducing the job cuts by 200, stopping the plans to outsource IT (saving 80 jobs in the process), and forcing the entire Board of Governors to resign in disgrace.

Now the entire public sector faces an unprecedented onslaught on our jobs, services, pensions and pay, and a continued threat of privatisation and outsourcing. Nationally we must stand strong and throw everything we’ve got into defending ourselves and we must believe in our ability to win.

I’ve got vital experience leading my branch in strike action against job cuts, and we are now going from strength to strength. I want to bring that experience on to the NEC. Actions speak louder than words: we will have to take determined national industrial action to face up to the Con-Dem government.

United we stand

We need unity in action. At London Met this was our key weapon; united with the UCU and with students. We should strengthen the cross-union ‘United for Education’ campaign and when possible we should coordinate action with our sister unions in the education sector. As with our best local campaigns, UNISON should play a leading role in defending jobs in education, never playing second fiddle to the academics.

We fought tooth and nail to save our nursery at London Met, defending low paid women workers and students. I applaud those other branches struggling to save theirs, such as Greenwich, Goldsmith’s and Westminster. We must learn the lessons of Brighton’s successful campaign to save The Phoenix nursery – working with communities and developing broad alliances .

For any campaign to work, members should make the decisions, not unaccountable officials. Local branches should have more say over their own disputes: when members want to take action, as they did at KCL, Westminster or Manchester Met last year – officials should fully support them, not delay and tip-toe around legal hurdles until the momentum is lost.

We need a union that inspires us and that leads by example – such as capping top salaries and paying all officials a workers wage. You and I don’t earn £100,000 – our representatives shouldn’t either.

UNISON should be led by elected grass-roots activists, with members’ interests at its core; challenge the ConDem consensus with heart and passion; be proud to speak out for our members; celebrate and support those defending their jobs.

Vote for an independent socialist – non-aligned to any party, in the United Left alliance – with a strong track record of organising members and inspiring activists.

Please use your vote and encourage your colleagues to vote. For more visit:

Vote Max Watson - a fighting candidate, standing up for you!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Vote Max Watson leaflet

Download the Vote Max Watson postcard-sized leaflet as a pdf from here. Contact me to arrange delivery of leaflets - email me with your address and numbers of postcards required.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Nine branch nominations confirmed: Max Watson to appear on ballot paper for NEC

Good news: all nine of the branch nominations that were received have been 'accepted', none of them 'rejected' / ruled out of order, and so I've been confirmed as a candidate.

Well done and thanks to everyone for getting their forms immaculately filled in and their minutes typed up accurately etc. Next step is to get a good leaflet out in time for the ballot; voting will start on 27 September 2010.

So until then, there's plenty to be getting on with fighting against the cuts. Good luck, and see you in the streets!



Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Thanks for the nominations - 9 branches

Thanks so much to all those UNISON activists in the Higher Education sector who, during a short period in the holiday season went out of their way to encourage nominations, convincing nine branches to back the election campaign.

It's a really humbling experience to stand for election and I've been overwhelmed by the kind words and encouraging messages of support I've received over the last few weeks.

Getting nominations from a range of branches was important - from outside London (where I'm based), as well as within, from old and new universities, and from male and female activists - and we achieved that too.

Politically, this election is an important one: we've got tough times ahead, and UNISON members will be feeling the pressure over the next year. So it's an important time to put a left, fighting candidate on to the ballot paper. And whilst there are some on the right who think struggling universities - like London Met - should be left to go under, it's right to have a candidate from an 'ex-Poly' with financial problems, standing up for the underdog.

Although in fact eleven branches agreed to nominate 'Max Watson for NEC', in the end the following nine branches got their papers in before the deadline (follow links for endorsements):

  1. Birkbeck
  2. King College London (KCL)*
  3. London Metropolitan University
  4. London South Bank University*
  5. Middlesex University
  6. School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
  7. University of Birmingham
  8. University of Brighton*
  9. University of Cambridge and Colleges*
* If you are from these branches and want to write a sentence or two (in a personal capacity) on why you've nominated or you are supporting this campaign, please get in touch via email or Facebook.

Both Westminster and University of College London (UCL) had also voted to nominate but their papers were not received in time or were disallowed (e.g. no email voting precedent had been set). Thanks for agreeing to nominate anyway despite redundancy situations and so on. Hopefully not too many more nomination papers are ruled out of order in the next week (make sure your minutes are all typed up and approved).

If you're a UNISON member of any of those branches above, or from any HE branch with active UNISON members, then get in touch to find out how you can help (in a personal capacity).

If you work Higher Ed but aren't yet a member, then join UNISON.

Thanks again for all the nominations. The next steps are timetabled here (pdf):

5pm, 13 August 2010
The deadline for candidates to withdraw their nomination.
The deadline for the original signed paper meeting nomination forms and candidate
forms, which were sent by e-mail and fax by 6 August 2010, to be received by MLU.
The deadline for candidates to be told whether election addresses were received.

20 August 2010
The deadline for candidates to be told about whether they can stand in the election.

5pm, 27 August 2010
The deadline for written appeals and supporting evidence from candidates to be received by the Returning Officer.

7 September 2010
The deadline for any appeal decisions made by the Returning Officer.

20 September 2010
Branches are told the details about the election.

27 September 2010
Ballot papers are sent to members. Ballot starts.

5 October 2010
The start of the Ballot helpline for members.

12noon, 19 October 2010
The end of the Ballot helpline for members.

5pm, 22 October 2010
Voting ends.

5pm, 29 October 2010
The deadline for written complaints and supporting evidence to be sent to the Returning

12 November 2010
The deadline for the Returning Officer to investigate and respond to complaints.

16 November 2010
The candidates are told the results.

17 November 2010
The public are told the results.

Should be home in time for Xmas then!
So, it's time for a holiday. As of next week until mid September... Hope you've all had/ will have a good holiday too? Get in touch with ideas for the election campaign via email or Facebook.



Monday, 2 August 2010

Bill Lehm: I'm supporting Max Watson for NEC because...

UCL Branch nominate Max Watson for the Higher Education General Seat of UNISON’s National Executive Council (NEC) because Max and his branch at London Metropolitan University have shown that we CAN stand up for ourselves and defend our members' jobs. Max made a big difference at London Met, and we believe he can do the same on the NEC. We hope you nominate him too.

Bill Lehm
Branch Secretary
UNISON University College London (UCL)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Matt Raine: I'm supporting Max Watson for NEC because...

Whenever I’m looking for great ideas to copy it's London Met UNISON branch that I turn to first. The leadership that Max has shown to his branch is inspirational. We need more people like Max leading our national union. At time of savage cuts by the Con Dem government, with proposals for less Universities and more private sector involvement we need leaders prepared to lead and fight back. That’s why Max has my full support in standing in this election.

Matt Raine
Branch Secretary, Birmingham University (personal capacity)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Jenny Compton-Bishop: I'm supporting Max Watson for NEC because...

Max played a prominent part in turning what seemed a hopeless situation at London Met into a strong protest movement, thereby saving jobs. In doing this, he became an inspiration to all union activists.

I am confident that, as a member of UNISON's NEC, Max would be equally instrumental in building a strong movement against the threatened attacks on Higher Education by the coalition government.

I support Max's nomination to the NEC.

Jenny Compton-Bishop
Branch Secretary
Middlesex University UNISON
Higher Education Service Group Exec member
(Personal Capacity)

Sandy Nicoll: I'm supporting Max Watson for NEC because...

In Higher Education, like the public sector in general, we face huge cuts – attacks on our pay and our pensions, threatened job cuts and continued outsourcing. London Met UNISON branch has been in the eye of the storm over the last year, and Max has vital experience leading strike action against both job cuts and outsourcing. The proposals to outsource IT service provision at London Met were beaten by the UNISON branch – saving 80+ jobs in the process.

We need a national leadership prepared to take bold action and coordinate it nationally to defend ourselves against the Con-Dem onslaught. So please vote for Max Watson, HE general seat, UNISON NEC.

Sandy Nicoll

Chair, London Regional Higher Education Council
Branch Secretary, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
(Personal Capacity)

Barry Blinko: I'm supporting Max Watson for NEC because...

In Higher Education London Met has been an inspiration to us all. Firstly in their successful struggle to massively cut the number of compulsory redundancies and also in the rebuilding of the branch. I went to their last AGM which was both well attended and had many young members. The discussion was lively and informative. Max has played a leading role in achieving this success. I am certain he would provide the same dynamic leadership if elected on to the NEC. This leadership will be much needed in the times ahead.

Barry Blinko
ex-Higher Education Service Group Executive (2008 - 2010)
Westminster Uni Branch Sec ( ? - 2010)

Naomi Bain: I'm supporting Max Watson because...

I'm supporting Max Watson because he is a confident and enthusiastic activist who has proved himself in his branch and I think he is the kind of person we are going to need on the NEC in the difficult times ahead.

Naomi Bain
Birkbeck UNISON Chair
(Personal capacity)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Allan Pike: I'm supporting Max Watson because...

Max Watson as Branch Chair at London Met is a major contributor to the development of our local branch organisation. In addition to his skills and successes in various and wide ranging campaigns, negotiations and representations on behalf of members, those attributes have extended out to the wider campaigning issues across the HE sector and beyond. He works effectively and tirelessly in his efforts to achieve those successes.

Max is highly motivated, skilled, dedicated and inspirational to those around him, those qualities would be highly beneficial to others in his standing as a representative on the general seat on the NEC.

Allan Pike
Branch Secretary
London Met University UNISON
(Personal Capacity)

Friday, 16 July 2010

Gail Cameron: I'm supporting Max because ...

I'm supporting Max because I'm confident that he's serious about defending members' jobs and resisting the decimation of Higher Eduction. He proved that last year in London Met, where he was central to our campaign against massive cuts and redundancies.

And he's the sort of person I want to see on the NEC. Here, he's shown great commitment to organising and strengthening the branch. But even more so to listening to, supporting and building the confidence of members in their ability to stand up for themselves.

Gail Cameron
Asst Branch Secretary
London Met UNISON
Personal capacity

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

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

Max Watson, London Metropolitan University Branch

Membership number: 5260154

12 July 2010

Dear colleague,

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 ( 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: ( We have revived our branch newsletter, and we even have our own ‘YouTube’ channel (

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.

In solidarity,

Max Watson

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: