Thursday, 26 March 2009

Q&A from UNISON for LMU staff

The following is the text of a leaflet that went out recently, early March, to UNISON members, and is currently being updated in light of further untrue attacks on the unions positions and our elected representatives. Please leave any comments and questions below.

Management have recently sent out some misleading emails to all staff at London Metropolitan University about the union’s positions. Below are some facts about UNISON's stance on the threatened redundancies:

1. When did UNISON know about the problems with HEFCE’s funding of LMU?

We were aware last summer that there was a problem with student returns. Both UNISON and UCU questioned management about it. The University then put its strategic plan to HEFCE on how it would deal with both the year on year reduction in funding and the repayment of the over-funding. This plan was rejected by HEFCE at the very end of last year.

2. What has happened since then?

On 8th January Brian Roper wrote a letter to staff outlining the financial crisis this had created and warned of potential redundancies. Soon after it was confirmed that this would amount to 320 posts, two thirds of which would fall on support staff. Two very brief meetings were held with UNISON and the UCU in January instigated by management to discuss the re-opening of the voluntary redundancy scheme. At the second of these meetings the unions demanded that a formal notice (a Section 188 notice) of redundancies must be issued in order to begin formal consultation over a period of 90 days. Most importantly this notice would have to detail where the redundancies would take place. Only, - this needs to be stressed- ONLY when this information is known would the unions be prepared to re-open the voluntary redundancy scheme as one of the principle ways in which to avoid compulsory redundancies. Opening the scheme before then would be chaotic and divisive.

An S188 notice was then issued to the unions on 17th February but this failed to contain the critical information of which posts were under threat of redundancy; it simply listed them as falling in every department of the University. What it did however, was to come up with wholly new figures of the number of posts under threat: 250 by end of this July and a further 300 by the end of July 2010, giving a combined total of 550.

3. Has the 90 day consultation period started?

The unions are challenging the University on the basis that the redundancy notification doesn’t reach the basic requirements as set down by law and therefore the consultation period hasn’t started. Letters confirming the basis of this legal challenge have been sent essentially saying the 90 day period can only begin once the unions have received the detailed information the University is required to provide under S188.

4. Are the trade unions blocking voluntary redundancies (VR)?

No. While we accept that there may be a need for voluntary redundancies as stated above, VR can’t and shouldn’t be considered until the redundancy notification has been properly submitted. These objections were ignored by the University, with staff being invited to apply for voluntary redundancies. In response both unions have declared a local dispute with the intention of stopping this ill-conceived process. The time for opening up the voluntary redundancy scheme might well come but that time is not now.

5. What else is UNISON doing?

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis has written to HEFCE. Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North and also a UNISON member, is to meet with HEFCE next week; and will be meeting with Higher Education Minister and local MP for neighbouring Tottenham, David Lammy, and Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills John Denham, over the next week or so. On 5th March a meeting was held at Holloway Road site attended by 60 plus UNISON members and addressed by Jon Richards, UNISON’S Senior National Officer for Higher Education; Jeremy Corbyn and Harry Lister UNISON’s Regional Officer for London Metropolitan University, where members concerns were raised and addressed. A similar meeting will be held in the City campus in the near future.

6. What can the unions do about the threat of compulsory redundancies?

Once the redundancy notification has been properly submitted the 90 day consultation period will begin. It is during this time that the Unions will enter into meaningful discussions with management to explore what the alternatives are to compulsory redundancies.

7. I have a concern. Who do I go to?

If you have any concerns please speak to your local union rep. Do not sign anything without first getting it checked out with your union rep. We will be sending out regular bulletins and updates over the next few weeks.

• Email London Met Unison Branch:

• See the website of the Save London Met University campaign for latest news and updates:

• Call UNISON with any queries, our Branch Sec, Allan Pike: ext 0207 320 3017

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