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Candidate Statements 2021

Officer posts

Officer posts are listed below as presented in the local rules, please see section 8 for role descriptions.

[Candidate statements are displayed in alphabetical order]

The president

Deepa Govindarajan 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.

Sally Pellow

I joined the branch committee in 2016 when PAS was under way, and took on the role of Secretary the following year. For the last year I have been your President, and I have also been a member of the NEC since 2019. My presidency started with the University having recently issued a threat of up to 500 redundancies: negotiations were making no progress at that point. With your clear mandate, I pulled together an amazing team who successfully negotiated an agreement resulting in no redundancies and no pay cuts, having followed UCU’s Jobs First approach. These were difficult negotiations and my pragmatic approach met with some opposition from a vocal minority of members: I welcomed the strong endorsement of a clear majority of the branch, including at a well attended general meeting.

There is a lot more to do. The last year has been hard on us all, and the impact on the sector has yet to be assessed fully. We can expect government attacks on most of our subject areas, and need to anticipate an income squeeze from mooted fee reductions and from the impact of Brexit and Covid on international travel. Pensions are going to be a major issue. We need to continue to probe the University’s financial decision making, and to ensure that staff are always the highest priority when changes are proposed. With considered, intelligent, cautious negotiation, we can redirect strategies and succeed in building a strong, positive, collaborative workplace: there is no need to start with resistance or threats of strike action before discussions take place.

You will have views on all of this: and I know that these views vary enormously. As we cautiously return to our desks, we need to discuss these matters in an open, collegiate, tolerant way, listening to all views. By voting for me you will be mandating my approach of courtesy, inclusiveness and cooperation.

I believe that every member of the Union should be supported, and everyone’s views heard. For me, kindness, tolerance and acceptance are the greatest strengths, and I believe a Union protects us all. My blog is at

The vice‑president

David Field

I have been the Departmental UCU Rep for Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences for several years, and have been a RUCU branch committee member for one year. I am also a vocal member of the University Senate, critiquing the proposals the university makes there. I’m standing for Vice President because I want to support our current Branch President, Sally Pellow, in continuing the fantastic work that she has done over the very difficult year just passed. Specifically, when she was elected last year she inherited a situation in which it appeared that the pandemic would deal a heavier blow to the university finances than it eventually did. Management wanted to negotiate with RUCU to find an alternative to making a large number of redundancies, which Sally did (the ‘Phase 1’ agreement). Sally’s jobs-first approach to the financial problems caused by the pandemic was in tune with the views and priorities of the majority of members, as shown by the motion passed by the very well attended EGM in July 2020; I believe RUCU should continue the moderate and constructive approach embodied in that EGM motion. I have a particular interest in tackling the growing problem of excessive workload in the university, and if elected will focus my efforts on this.

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.

The secretary

Simone Knox

[No candidate statement received]

Nat Willmott

I have been involved with the Reading UCU committee for four years, most recently as an ordinary member and Health and Safety representative. I am now standing for the role of Secretary to offer my services, to you the members, as we all continue to navigate through these challenging times.

The last few months have been incredibly hard for our members. The covid pandemic has brought into an even sharper focus some of the issues directly affecting members: excessive workloads, health and safety at work, and job insecurity to name but a few. In the mist of it all, last summer, we were faced with a management proposal that put many livelihoods on the line and was a kneejerk reaction to the crisis and uncertainty our institution was facing.

I am proud of the work undertaken by the branch, under the leadership of Sally Pellow, to negotiate hard on those proposals, testing the validity of the management figures and claims and aligning counter proposals with the UCU national ‘Jobs First’ strategy to defend our members interests. It was important that we, as a committee, invited every member to vote on the proposals. Together, we all made a collective decision to defend members jobs by way of the agreement.

As Secretary, I would seek to support the committee in continuing to reach out to the whole membership, listening and learning about the range of viewpoints and reflecting this back into the decision-making and strategy of the branch. I would seek to build on the work already underway to build up our rep network and means of gathering the views of our members, whether it be through meetings, surveys, drops-in and more. I will also continue to support the branch work on health and safety, working with the committee to continue to scrutinize the return to campus planning over the coming weeks and months.

My approach is inclusive – I believe that all members are ‘activists’ in different ways. By signing up to a union, that is an important act of solidarity. My role, as a committee member, is to work to develop a range of accessible and inclusive ways that every member can pitch in and share their views.

The membership secretary

Rob Jubb

I am standing for Membership and Recruitment Secretary to strengthen the Branch’s ability to protect its members’ priorities and interests. I have been a Committee member for the past two years, including serving as Secretary this year, and the rep in my Department, Politics and International Relations, for five. I believe that the Branch is most effective when it seeks to listen to and learn from all its members, making sure that its decisions are guided by what they want rather than the beliefs or preferences of the Committee or any other small group. Over the last year as Secretary, I have consulted regularly with other Departmental reps over issues like the University’s “Phase 2” strategy, health and safety, and workload, as well as using surveys to make sure that members across the University, including in areas without reps, can have their voices heard too. As Membership and Recruitment Secretary, I would continue to reach out to ordinary members and to make sure that their concerns are the basis of the Branch’s decision-making and strategy. Only a branch which can bring its ordinary members with it can hope to effectively defend their interests against employers and their often necessarily conflicting goals. Respecting the democratic decisions of the Branch is crucial then, and I am proud of having helped Sally Pellow to fulfil the mandate given to her by her victory in last year’s election for Branch President. Her “jobs first” strategy of negotiating with the University to prevent job losses, in line with the national union’s guidance, was overwhelmingly endorsed by a General Meeting attended by hundreds of members, and prevented what could have been hundreds of compulsory redundancies across the University. I believe that moderate course was best for the Branch, but would have respected whatever democratic decision its members made. That is what working for members requires. The Branch is likely to face many challenges over the next year, not least to do with USS, and continuing to respect and work on the basis of its ordinary members’ concerns and interests is the best way of making sure it faces them in the best shape it can be.

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.