Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Unemployed & retired members - support welcome

Rule 2.4.2:

"Unemployed members shall be entitled to attend branch meetings and to vote on issues not relating to pay and conditions of members in employment. They are not entitled to hold office in the union unless otherwise decided by the National Executive Council."

Similarly, on retired members, the UNISON rule book is clear:

Rule 2.6.2:

Retired members shall be entitled to attend branch meetings and to vote on issues not relating to the pay and conditions of members in employment. They will be entitled to stand for office and vote only for positions in the Retired Members’ Organisation unless otherwise determined by the National Executive Council or as otherwise provided for in these Rules.

At the D&O last week we discussed some proposed amendments to the retired members issues. It was agreed that retired members' input - (eg as Pensions contacts or as activists who can help the union but not hold office) - was very welcome.

Some trade union activists, when they retire, cling on to power and won't move on. That's why UNISON's rules are there - to stop them doing this.

As a member on the NEC I am elected by my peers who also work in Higher Ed as support staff and are full members of the same union. If I was unemployed or retired - if I took a redundancy package for example - then I would no longer have the same interests as my constituents, as my material conditions no longer bare any relation to those workers I'd supposed to be representing.

Regardless of my gut instincts about what the members might want or feel about one issue or another, I would no longer be in a position to know, as my own position would be fundamentally different to them. So I'm glad that the D&O disagreed with some proposed rule amendments which could have eroded that principle.

I'm all for supporters helping out, and am always thankful that retired members should wish to lend a hand in some way, but they should accept our rules and bow out gracefully, as the vast majority of them do. For those that don't - it's embarrassing to have to ask, isn't it?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

3 Months and counting! Stop Trade Union victimisation at Centre of the Cell! Re-instate Vik Chechi!

Since 18th October, Centre of the Cell's Widening Participation Officer, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) UNISON Branch Secretary and Trade Union Representative Vik Chechi has been suspended for 3 months from the Centre of the Cell workplace by Centre of the Cell management. 

QMUL College's own HR Code of Practice on Discipline states that investigations into disciplinary cases shall 'begin with no unreasonable delay and will normally be completed within 20 days'. Suspension should also be reviewed every 20 days. 

During the period leading up to Mr Chechi's suspension, Centre of the Cell and the College did not appear to follow its own Codes of Practice on dealing with issues such as lateness, but instead leapt straight to disciplinary procedures. This was driven by a concerted attempt to force out a Trade Union shop steward through surreptitious means to further facilitate a driving down in wages and terms and conditions in front line staff. Its noted that in the period leading up to Mr Chechi's suspension, he as Union Representative raised a collective grievance against Centre of the Cell management on behalf of 11 Centre of the Cell staff members - whom since 9 been forced out of the charity, including every single Trade Union member at Centre of the Cell. This was included as a 'vexatious collective grievance' in the charges against Mr Chechi. Since the investigation of that grievance was actually still ongoing, this charge apparently pre-determined its outcome by pre-emptively branding it 'vexatious'. Other charges include raising 'malicious and threatening' allegations against management - ignoring that these 'allegations' were raised as concerns on behalf of union members in the workplace on vital issues such as low pay and high workload. 

This is totally unacceptable. Trade Unions have a legal right to operate in the workplace and brazen union busting will result in worse working conditions and lower productivity of the charity. Centre of the Cell has a mission towards reaching out to the most deprived in society - wide layers of the working class and such an attitude towards the official organisations of these people, the Trade Union is a clear contradiction. Also the suspension is on full pay, Centre of the Cell continues to lose a great amount of money through this entire process. A Temporary Outreach assistant is currently performing Mr Chechi's duties - creating a business model to justify not renewing Mr Chechi's fixed term contract in July as an employee could carry out his role for less money.  

It is obvious that with this uncertainty and the threat of dismissal hanging over him, Mr Chechi is not well-placed to perform his trade union duties and activities to the best of his ability, despite his non-suspension from this role. It is intolerable to treat a campus trade unionist in this way at a time when management is implementing major restructuring involving significant numbers of redundancies across the College, where staff  require maximal trade union involvement and support.

The constant delays in dealing with Mr Chechi's case reinforce the impression that a trade unionist is being unfairly victimised. 

Please contact QMUL and Centre of the Cell management (c.pearson@qmul.ac.ukf.balkwill@qmul.ac.uk) promptly demanding to reinstate Mr Chechi and ensure that campus trade unionists are not subjected to victimisation and poor treatment in the future. Also sign the online petition (over 400 signatures) demanding reinstatement  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/reinstatevikchechi/ See below for press coverage on the issue and attached materials from previous protests and campaign meetings.

Yours sincerely,
Vik Chechi
Centre of the Cell Trade Union Shop Steward
QMUL UNISON Branch Secretary





2012 Service Group Executive elections & accountability

Dear UNISON HE contacts,

First off, APOLOGIES - many of you have emailed me asking "What is going on?", and why the pension dispute has suddenly gone quiet? I said I would write a report of the recent SGE meeting that led to this statement going out last week:

I have recently been reminded about collective responsibility already, and as I already made it clear where I stood before the meeting you won't need me to remind you how I voted, so I'll be very careful about what I say here. And as I've been landed with a local Nightmare at London Met, which combines a 'jobs massacre' with the dreaded Shared Services... So I'm a little snowed under (again).

I'm always on the phone so call me to discuss any time:

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7320 3010
Mob: (UNISON): +44 (0) 7949 039 187

Finally, if you want to know how your SGE Reps voted then ask them! After all they are accountable to you, the members!

The nomination period for election of the union's service group executives is already open and closes at 5pm on Friday 17 February 2012. The election procedures and forms are available to download on the UNISON website at:


For any other election enquiries, contact the member liaison unit at the UNISON Centre. Telephone 020 7121 5312, email elections@unison.co.uk

If you don't like recent HE SGE decisions then talk to your colleagues about who is standing and ask them what they stand for. You can also pass a motion calling for a special conference to re-open the debate.

Contact me if you want to discuss standing for elections - go for it I say!

Once the nomination period is over, the lefties among us will collate a list of candidates we're backing. So send me your info so we can all support each other if you are standing for a Fighting, Democratic union! 



Re-open the Pensions Debate: pass a motion for a Special Conference on Pensions

This Branch requisitions a Special Conference of the Higher Education Service Group to consider the policy of the Service Group in relation to the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Please send this motion if passed at a Branch Committee or Branch Meeting (with a rough number of your membership in your branch) to:

And cc me in so we can keep a tab on progress:

The rulebook stipulates that if we get branches that represent 25% of membership, the service group will have to reconvene... This isn't over.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Friday 13th at London Met truly a nightmare

Dear Malcolm,

Having just received an 'at risk of redundancy' email from the Director of HR, Lyn Link - along with 1,984 others members of staff - I felt compelled to write to you directly, despite the fact this email did not come from you.

Late last year, when you spoke to the all staff forums, you committed to reviewing your own pay and that of your Senior Management Team. Can I remind you of your commitment, particularly considering since the Beaman's review in which yours were identified as being in the 'upper quartile'? I'll forward this email to all unison members to remind them of your commitment to considering a pay cut - how much exactly are the London Met VC & Deputies paid at present? - and also to remind all members that we have identified a £1.3M saving if you were to cap salaries at a reasonable level.

Can you also let us know who is to be held accountable for 'over recruiting' this academic year, how much the fine from HEFCE will be?

Can I also ask why it was your Deputy VC who yesterday told 'all staff' that another 229 jobs were at risk. And why did he say that the staff who were at risk of redundancy had already been informed of this yesterday when in fact we have only just received an email today from Lyn Link.

So exactly how many saw the email from Peter yesterday and thought: "Phew: I haven't got one so I'm all right." And then today, "Oh, wait, I have!" (The answer is 1,984). One thousand, nine hundred and eighty four of your staff!

Can I suggest that whilst you may see these actions as necessary, which of course we don't, and added to all of the fiasco around your latest S188 announcement (at least give the email to all staff a meaningful subject header), plus your tendering to farm out the entire support staff functions, this Friday 13th at London Met truly is a nightmare.

Congratulations, you've surpassed all your predecessors in that regard! We have had a few nightmares before this week, after all. I'm sure our staff will be celebrating in style this year indeed.

I look forward to your response and to meeting you again soon.



UNISON Branch Chairperson
Email UNISON: unison@londonmet.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7320 3010
Mob: (UNISON): +44 (0) 7949 039 187
Call UNISON Direct: 0845 355 0845

Thursday, 12 January 2012

We're London Met, not 'EasyMet'

We're London Met, not 'EasyMet'

Marketing implores us to be "Proud to be London Met" - but now our vice-chancellor says that up to 50 per cent of our support services staff are "Not allowed to be London Met".

We were staggered by the latest email to staff sent by Malcolm Gillies, who announced (just two days before the Christmas holidays) that London Metropolitan University's board of governors had decided to embark on a "shared services" project - slashing costs and cutting jobs in the process.

Gillies followed up this Scrooge-like Christmas message with an interview with Times Higher Education in which he claimed that the shared services model would cut costs by up to 50 per cent over five years ("Shared savings plan to halve admin costs", 5 January). This was the first Unison (which represents support staff) had heard of the plans: happy new year to you too, Malcolm.

Current evidence that doesn't come from the shared services industry itself overwhelmingly demonstrates that such projects are deeply flawed. They share these characteristics: high entry or upfront costs; high failure rates; loss of local knowledge; loss of service visibility; loss of control and accountability; loss of identity; loss of competitive advantage; worker dissatisfaction and union trouble (as if we haven't had enough of that at London Met); costs of failure pushed on to service users (London Met students are not rich); and "savings" as costs are pushed into other parts of the system.

We are deeply concerned that London Met is on the road to privatisation. The procurement costs of shared service models are significant and could leave the university deeper in the red: the potential savings are wildly exaggerated and dependent on cutting terms and conditions, or locating employment in areas where costs are lower - yet the marketers want us to "talk up the brand".

London Met staff really do pride ourselves on being embedded in the local community. We are London Met, not "EasyMet", and intend to remain so. Let's hope the board won't repeat the failures of the past.

Max Watson, Chair, London Metropolitan University Unison branch

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Lobby UNISON’s Service Group Executives – Keep fighting for our pensions until we win!

London Met Uni UNISON branch supports the call for a lobby of the Service Group Executives outside UNISON's national headquarters (130 Euston Road, NW1) from 12 noon to 2.00 PM on Tuesday 10 January. Tell out elected reps – Don't give up the fight!
"These agreements deliver the government's key objectives in full, and do so with no new money since our November offer. These reforms will save the taxpayer tens of billions of pounds over the next few decades and significantly improve the long-term fiscal sustainability of this country." Danny Alexander

As UNISON representatives and ordinary members we do not believe that the "Heads Of Agreement" on public sector pensions form the basis for settling our dispute with the government over our future pensions.
The agreements would ultimately deliver the government's agenda of making public sector workers work longer, pay more and get less in our pensions.
The key elements the government has wanted to impose remain intact:
· Increased Employee Contributions
· A Retirement Age rising in line with the State Pension Age to at least 68
· Replacement of final salary with worse career average schemes
· Pensions devalued by uprating them in line with the Consumer Price Index instead of Retail Price Index, cutting their value by 15%
The agreement is based on the Treasury's "final offer" issued on 2 November, which allows for negotiation on elements in each pension scheme but within a fixed "cost ceiling". As Francis Maude has made clear "The cost ceiling has not changed. We have not put an extra penny on the table".
On 30 November we took part in the largest strike action in at least a generation, in an unprecedented display of unity across public sector unions. Dave Prentis rightly proclaimed it "an incredible success and one of the proudest moments of my career".
We believe it is a fundamental mistake only a few weeks later to allow the government to now play divide and rule. This can only make it easier for them to push through the cuts in our pensions as part of their wider austerity programme of real pay cuts and massive job losses, making working people pay the price for a crisis created by bankers' greed. There is too much at stake to allow the Con Dems to pick off unions one at a time or to seek to isolate others as they are clearly attempting to do with the PCS.
We therefore call on UNISON's Service Group Executives to reject the "Heads of Agreement" and instead call for the resumption of further coordinated public sector strikes to defend decent pensions for all public sector workers.
Sign the above statement here: