Paul Mackney

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Paul Mackney (born 25 March 1950) is a British educator and trade union leader. From 1997 to 2006, he was General Secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE). NATFHE merged with the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in 2006 to form the University and College Union, at which time Mackney was elected Joint general secretary (serving alongside Sally Hunt). He retired from union service in May 2007. He now works part-time as an Associate Director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).

Early life[edit]

Mackney's father was an evangelical vicar in the Church of England and his mother was a Christian Socialist. His parents deeply impressed the importance of racial equality and social justice on him as a child. Mackney attended Christ's Hospital boarding school. He trained briefly to become a probation officer, but ended up graduating with a bachelor's degree in politics from the University of Exeter.[1] During his time in college, he joined the International Socialists and became active in campaigns to strengthen the rights of the unemployed and those on public assistance. Later expelled from the International Socialists, he joined the Workers' League before becoming a member of the Labour Party.[2][3]

Mackney taught English in Hamburg, Germany, before returning England. He was a part-time lecturer in social studies at Poole Technical College in Poole, Dorset (where he joined NATFHE), before taking a similar position at Hall Green Technical College in Birmingham in 1975. From 1975 to 1992, Mackney taught about trade union issues in further education.[2][3]

Mackney received a master's degree in industrial relations from University of Warwick in 1986. His dissertation topic was the 1984–1985 miners' strike.[4]

Union career[edit]

Mackney was elected as the NATFHE representative to the Birmingham Trades Council in the late 1970s, eventually becoming Vice-President and President. He pushed for establishment of the Birmingham Trade Union Resource Centre, and from 1986 to 1992 was Head of the institute.[1]

Mackney was appointed a Regional Official for NATFHE in the West Midlands in 1992, and elected General Secretary of the union in 1997. Mackney discovered the union was nearly £1 million in debt, the executive board as deeply splintered, the staff morale low, and the organisation drifting. He slashed costs and laid off staff, but also won the loyalty of the board and staff for his vision and leadership. He reinvigorated the 67,000-member trade union to such an extent that he was re-elected to an unprecedented second term in 2002.[2]

Mackney worked to improve the effectiveness and strength of NATFHE by seeking a merger of the trade union with the Association of University Teachers. Merger of the two unions occurred in 2006. Mackney was elected Joint general secretary along with AUT leader Sally Hunt. The new trade union represented about 120,000 academics and academic-related staff in further and higher education throughout the United Kingdom.[1]

Mackney suffered a severe heart attack in 2005. After an extensive recovery, he declined to run for the position of General Secretary of the UCU and retired from active union life.[1][3]

Mackney has been involved in larger trade union issues as well. In 1999, Trades Union Congress (TUC) general secretary John Monks appointed him to his first Task Group. In September 2002, Mackney became the first NATFHE general secretary ever elected to the TUC General Council.[1][2] Mackney became a founding member of a caucus on the TUC General Council known as "Fed Up With Losing." The caucus, which included Billy Hayes, Jeremy Dear, Mick Rix, Mark Serwotka, and Bob Crow among others, argued for a much more aggressive and militant labour movement which would push the Labour Party in a more leftist direction and begin to challenge the lingering effects of Thatcherism. The media began calling the group the Awkward Squad.[5]

Political activity[edit]

Mackney is a lifelong opponent of racism and fascism. He has been involved in anti-racism activities since his youth. As a trade union leader, he pushed for establishment of the Commission for Black Staff in Further Education and has attacked discrimination against staff and faculty as well as societal racism which prevents students from obtaining jobs upon graduation.[3][6] Mackney has also vocally opposed the British National Party and other organised and unorganised forms of fascism in British society.[2][7]

He is also a strong supporter of Palestinian independence. However, in 2006, Mackney opposed a NATFHE resolution supporting a boycott of Israeli institutions of higher education.[8]

Mackney was also an early and strong opponent of the Iraq War. He has spoken out angrily about British involvement in the war, and condemned the government for its continued involvement in the continuing military occupation of Iraq.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e Beckett, "Going, But Not Gone," The Guardian, 14 February 2006.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Paul Mackney: A Child of the 1960s," The Independent, 4 January 2004.
  3. ^ a b c d Kingston, "Deal Maker Bows Out," The Guardian, 23 May 2006.
  4. ^ Denham, "Learning from Solidarity: The Miners' Strike, 1984-5," Solidarity, 27 May 2004.
  5. ^ Murray, A New Labour Nightmare: The Return of the Awkward Squad, 2003; Buckley, "Blair Faces Clash With Union 'Awkward Squad'," The Times, 26 March 2003; Beckett, "Awkward? Us? Never!", The New Statesman, 8 September 2003.
  6. ^ Curtis, "FE Sector Branded 'Institutionally Racist'," The Guardian, 21 November 2002; Kingston, "Campaigners Speak Up for English Lessons," The Guardian, 23 January 2007.
  7. ^ "The Politics of Anti-Fascism," Socialism Today, May 2004.
  8. ^ Garner, "Lecturers' Union Supports Boycott of 'Apartheid' Israel," The Independent, 30 May 2006; Joffe-Walt, "Lecturers Back Boycott of Israeli Academics," The Guardian, 30 May 2006.
  9. ^ Vidal, "Soldiers' Parents Join 70,000 at Rally," The Guardian, 18 October 2004; Hearst, "Anti-War Protest Deals Blow to Blair," The Guardian, 27 September 2003.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John Akker
General Secretary of NATFHE
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Preceded by
New position
General Secretary of the University and College Union
with Sally Hunt
Succeeded by
Sally Hunt