Sunday, 26 April 2009

UNISON Update: A Final Warning

Dear members,

We are committed to representing our members’ interests, so we’ve been attending meetings with senior management to explain patiently some of our key concerns about their proposals. We believe their plans as they are currently put forward amount to the longest suicide note in the history of modern universities.

When management threatened so many job cuts, we wanted an assurance that there would be no compulsories. Management have failed to give us that promise, only a vague ‘intention’; yet once again threatened forced redundancies again last week, trying to bully staff into jumping ship

We’ve therefore demanded that if anyone’s job that is seriously threatened, they ought to be given a first priority when applying for voluntary. Yet management are unable to even understand how this logic works, let alone able to commit to this common sense proposal. Instead management want to go ahead with a scheme that could see well over 700 random job cuts.

We’ve also asked for a commitment that anyone applying for voluntary but is refused will not then be made redundant. Once again, management refuse despite claiming in departmental meetings that there is enough in the budget to cover all of the proposed cuts with a VR scheme. We believe this whole so-called voluntary scheme is a sham.

None of the Departmental plans where there is an intention to totally and or partially cut/outsource or rationalise services, do not have any impact assessment (Financial/Operational/Strategy/Workloads/Students) built into those plans. If they want staff and the trade unions to put forward alternative proposed, then they need to demonstrate and have just cause to the ideas they have put forward.

Basic manners
We’ve also explained the need for full and meaningful consultation with staff and trades unions. In response, management have called meetings during people’s holidays, when they’re teaching or with extremely short notice following the release of the proposals. Some of our members were
away when the proposals came out, and have returned from holiday having completely missed the meetings.

We’ve demanded that if staff members are not given enough time to meet with their elected union reps or have them present to represent them then those meetings have to be rescheduled. Management have not been able to commit to this very simple common courtesy.

It has become clear that some departmental managers are incapable of listening to the genuine worries of their staff. The cuts in budgets were known for almost a year, and yet only reluctantly and at the last minute they now meet to ‘consult’ their staff. The ACAS Code of Practice says that they should have been in serious talks with the unions from day one – back in June last year.

We’ve made it clear from the start that we utterly reject any outsourcing of our services. From the beginning we’ve outlined our concerns. The plan to outsource large sections of the ISS department beggars belief. We’ve since demanded to see the rationale for such a bloodbath in jobs – and to see the evidence such a scheme could possibly work. Amazingly, the Head of
Department has said that they were working on “the assumption” that it would be a cost-saving exercise. We don’t want assumptions, we want evidence. We’ve asked several times to see examples of a successfully outsourced university IT or AV department, and they’ve repeatedly failed to provide a single one.

UNISON organising meetings
We’ve been having meetings of our own to talk to union members without management about their proposals, and we’re currently looking in depth at all of the proposals to find ways to minimise the damage. We’ve already found ways to save money without job losses and found gaping holes in management’s plans which often reveal a complete lack of understanding of
how the University works.

If you want to set up your own departmental UNISON members meeting, then go ahead: set one up with your local rep, book a room and a time and someone from the exec or a full time official will be there to support you. The union is its members, so get involved – and be honest about what you think of the campaign strategy so far. Unlike management, we’re not
afraid of criticism or hearing how things could be done better. This is after all your union, so make your voice heard.

As well as developing a better plan of how some departments could operate, we are also building our branch in terms of new members and new activists: we’ve new people coming onto the exec, and new local reps who are getting involved. There are several people going on training for new reps this term, so don’t feel you have to have loads of experience to step forward.

If you feel angry or frustrated at the way you've been treated by the current executive group of managers and you know that the union needs your involvement, get in touch.

Show some respect
We’ve made it clear to management that we’re tired of having our time wasted by their incompetence and lack of respect. We expect to be balloting for industrial action unless they seriously consider the way they are treating our staff and their democratically elected reps. We have sent them a final warning in the form of the letter attached.

It should also be noted that there are many forms of industrial action and that our branch is prepared to consider all means at our disposal to make them take us seriously.

Furthermore, we send out a message of solidarity to our colleagues in the teaching union, the University and Colleges Union (UCU), who share our frustrations with management and to make clear we fully support their decision to ballot their members at this time.

We also want to send out a message to the Board of Governors and incoming Vice Chancellor: the staff here at London Met deserve better. We refuse to have our members ignored; we expect to be treated with respect, not disdain. We expect people at the top to take responsibility for their
staff, not lie to them and sell them out. There is such a thing as a duty of care and senior management until now have completely failed in their obligations. We are aiming to meet with the new VC as soon as possible to see if we can work together to build afresh. And in the meantime, we aim to hold the current management to account for the fine mess they’ve got us

May the Force be with you…
Finally, for some light relief during this time of doom and gloom… we’ve linked to a video put on Youtube by someone unbeknown to us, called ‘Save London Met Uni Star Wars Video’.
It's on our campaign blog so you can watch it here:

We hope staff and students continue to find imaginative ways to protest and get our message across. Send in ideas for more!

Thanks for all your support during this difficult time. Stick together, and keep in touch.

Allan Pike
Branch Secretary
Max Watson
Assistant Branch Secretary

UNISON Branch Executive

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