I'm really glad Tomasa, from Southampton, is standing on the 'Reclaim our union' ticket, as she is an excellent candidate (see here for a full list of candidates of the left).
I am backing Tomasa all the way and in the next few weeks I'll be campaigning for her election to join me on the NEC to represent Higher Ed - this is an important seat to win for us, there is no incumbent and it's a very winnable seat.
We need more people like Tomasa on the NEC who have the experience of standing up for members with a strong voice - she has plenty of experience and in the last couple of years has been in the middle of the Southampton District dispute (unusually, Solent Branch is still part of the local Government district branch - don't ask ... !).
Activists in HE will recognise Tomasa as having a quiet nature but commanding respect and always speaking up for a strong, fighting stance on behalf of our members.
We fought valiantly within UNISON to keep the fight over the pensions alive last year and in HE we were able to harness some of the anger and frustration people felt over the way that dispute fizzled out into significant electoral gains. Lets now win this important seat to help secure a strong, left voice for HE within UNISON.
There are stacks of 'Reclaim the Union' leaflet in the regions. So get in touch if you can help.
The full text of Tomasa's letter to branches:
Southampton District Branch: 08256
Re: Nomination for UNISON National Executive Council (NEC) Higher Education Women's seat.
I am writing to ask for the nomination of your Branch for the Higher Education Women's seat on the NEC for the period 2013/2015.
I have worked in Higher education for 30 years and I am currently a part-time Admin Officer responsible for data management at Southampton Solent University. I am also Chair of Southampton District Branch which covers Southampton City Council, Southampton Solent University, FE and 6th Form Colleges, schools, Community and Voluntary services. I have seen the devastating effects of cuts to public services on both the service providers and those who rely on the services provided and I am determined to fight closures, privatisations, out-sourcing, shared services, or whatever else they may be called, with whatever tools available. Over the past three years, I have been involved in several disputes within Southampton, starting with Medirest workers at Southampton general Hospital successfully campaigning for improved wages and conditions; the initial strikes to defend Libraries and leisure services and then the protests to protect and ultimately restore the pay of local government workers. I have campaigned against out-sourcing in my own University and have been successful in maintaining and in some instances improving terms and conditions for those staff whilst continuing to campaign for a Living wage and a return to direct employment. I shall continue to campaign vigorously for all workers threatened by unnecessary cuts and privatisations. I am very pleased that Southampton has now set up a "Defend the NHS" group and we managed to get 40 members to demonstrate outside of the NHS offices on a cold Wednesday afternoon at 4pm and hand in proposed revisions to the constitution.
As a part-time worker, I have experienced the difficulties of being asked to do a full week's work in part-time hours and living on part-time pay. The gender pay gap remains a serious issue as does gender segregation in job roles and these need to be addressed if we are to eliminate all forms of discrimination and work in a sector which genuinely is based on "equal pay for work of equal value" and where support staff are not seen as being of less value to academic staff. My latest campaign is harmonisation of holiday and sickness schemes and an independent review will be carried out in 2013.
Higher education, based on a system of free education and maintenance grants is perfectly affordable through the taxation system. As a Union, through the NEC, we should be reminding the public of the value of higher education, its benefits to both the national and local economies compared with the real cost of the current expensive and ever expanding system of loans administered through the Student Loan Company. We should also be campaigning on the threat posed by the increasing fragmentation of the education sector leading to a divided and increasingly selective primary and secondary education system. This will have far reaching consequences for staff terms and conditions and the quality of education available for those without the means to pay for what I believe to be a basic human right: education.
Outside of Higher Education, UNISON should support all members engaged in
a. the fight against privatisation and/or cuts to pay and conditions;
b. defending themselves against all forms of discrimination;
c. protecting and enhancing Trade Union rights; and
d. using our funds to support only those politicians who support UNISON's policies.
I have been a Trade Union member for 31 years, first joining whilst working in the Health Service and then joining NALGO when I first started working in higher education, just over 30 years ago. I do not belong to any political party and strongly believe in a fighting, democratic union, led by its members taking part in the democratic process with politicians only receiving support from UNISON if they openly and actively support our policies. I have no qualms in speaking up and no worries about being "unpopular". If elected, I would like to keep in contact with Branches so that I can represent your views and report back on the outcomes.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I know how busy you are. I hope that your Branch will support my nomination and election. I would also ask that you support Max Watson, current NEC member for HE and Chair of London Metropolitan University. If you haven't received his letter seeking your nomination, please let me know.
If you have any questions, or wish to discuss anything further please contact me atTomasa.firstname.lastname@example.org or 01380319972. I would be happy to attend your Branch Committee to give a fuller account of the views outlined in this letter.