Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Re-elected onto the NEC - Reclaim the Union leaflet for Higher Education

Download our A5 leaflet as a PDF here.
I'm happy to announce I've been re-elected unopposed to ‪‎UNISON‬'s National Executive Council so I can continue representing Higher Education in the General Seat for another two years. 

Thanks to all in the 17 branches who nominated me this year - it's great to have so much support from the leading, active branches. As I'd suggested at the time, it was never clear if anyone would get more than two branch nominations to stand against me.

So the task now is to ensure we also re-elect Tomasa Bullen back onto the Higher Education female seat and vote for all Reclaim the Union candidates. I've enjoyed working closely with Tomasa - she's a fantastic allay to have on side.

So 'Reclaim the Union' have produced our own leaflets for Higher Education, which include the full left slate for regions on the back as well as the national black members candidates on the front (see image).

They'll be in the post to anyone who wants to help keep Higher Ed flying the flag of resistance to austerity and anyone who wants to see a union with real teeth, not just a dental plan.

And with the recent Local Government Special Conference going completely our way (see the prolific Jon Rogers' own account and helpful collection of links here) there is, in my view, all to play for.

Whilst there are notable pockets of local branches bravely resisting the cuts we all face, imagine what a national UNISON with a decent leadership could achieve? Get involved if you want to make that a reality.

Friday, 20 March 2015

I wish UNISON would be more creative in our campaigning, like 'Barnet: The Disappearing Council' film

Those incredible campaigners at Barnet UNISON Local Government branch have again shown us how to get a message across with ingenuity and creativity. We need more of this.

I wish UNISON would regularly put out more of this kind of campaigning material instead of those (slightly dull) talking head films I'm guilty of taking part in.

Prioritise Motion 108 at UNISON NDC 2015: Withdraw support for the Tax Refund Company

Please prioritise Motion 108 for UNISON's National Delegates Conference.

London Met University Branch - alongside our close neighbours in the City and Islington FE College - are calling on UNISON to withdraw support for the Tax Refund Company - Personal Taxation Services. We tried to submit this through the region but we ran out of time.  

The motion is set out below and is self explanatory. Furthermore we have written to our members discouraging use of this service and sent a letter to the Chair of the Services to Members Committee all of which we've put on our website here. I had to dissuade a member from leaving our union after using their 'service' which is in fact a profit making operation, not a UNISON in-house service.  

We should be a campaigning union; an organising, democratic organisation that encourages participation in our collective resistance to injustice in the workplace. We should not simply be a 'servicing' union without muscle. 

However, when we do provide services to members, at the very least we should provide a decent one. 

So please prioritise Motion 108: Tax refund Company. Our members deserve better. 
This Conference notes: 

1. The Tax Refund Company is advertised to UNISON members by email and through letters to their home address. This company has been advertised to members as 'UNISON's Tax Refund Service - check you're not paying too much tax!' 

2. The information in the adverts which are sent to members have emphasised the word 'free' by putting it both in bold and uppercase. 

3. UNISON has used the following language to inform members about the 39% fee for using the service: "for every £1 of tax they get back, you will get 61p, GUARANTEED" 

4. HMRC provide clear advice on their website about how to claim your tax back for free. 

5. UNISON provide welfare support to members through our own Charity 'There for You'. 

This Conference believes: 

1. Advertising the Tax Refund Company as 'UNISON's Tax Refund Service - check you're not paying too much tax!' gives the false impression that it is a UNISON owned service. 

2. Highlighting the word 'free' gives the initial impression to a member scanning the information that it is a free service for members. 

3. The persuasive language used to advertise the company is misleading UNISON members by disguising the amount of fee to be paid. 

4. UNISON should only be advertising services to members which are ethical and in the interest of members. 

This Conference resolves to call on the NEC to: 

1. Withdraw its support and promotion for the Tax Refund Company to members 

2. Provide clear information to members about where to find the information about how they can claim their tax back free of charge. 

3. Provide Welfare officers at a local and regional level with information and guidance on how to support members to claim their tax back free of charge. 

4. Review all products and services endorsed by UNISON – and confirm that they are ethical and in the interests of members.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

OPPOSE THE JOBS MASSACRE - STOP THE SPIRAL OF DECLINE / Joint union meetings / petition / open letter


Staff and students will be utterly appalled by the recent announcement that the university intends to slash a further 165 jobs.
UNISON and UCU stand firmly against these damaging cuts – we say: enough is enough!
The kind of cuts foreseen are enough to virtually destroy entire Faculties.
The University has said they will make compulsory redundancies – a red line for both our unions.
And they wish to do this in the minimum time frame of just 45 days and during the Easter holiday period.
This disruption to people's lives, putting people's future at risk in such a rushed and stressful way is unacceptable.
The scale of the threat to entire areas is unforgivable and we cannot see how a certain Dean can look their own staff in the eye and justify these cuts given their own responsibility for the strategy that led to such a drastic decline in student numbers.
Equally, the devastating loss of our overseas students in 2012 is entirely the fault of the reckless leadership of senior management – from the Governors down to the Executive Group.
We cannot accept the same senior management team demanding we pay the price for their catastrophic decisions.  
We have seen redundancies every year since 2009, when they proposed 550 job cuts. Large numbers of S188 redundancies followed, in 2011, 2012, and again in 2013.
This ongoing slashing of jobs will mean the spiral of decline continues and the very future of the university will be threatened. Most galling, the very managers who got us into this mess are the same people now deciding whose jobs to cut while continuing to implement their own failed strategies.

NORTH CAMPUS: Tuesday 24th
1-2pm Graduate Centre, Room: GCG-08
CITY CAMPUS Wednesday 25th
1-2pm Calcutta House, Room: CM4-05
* Membership forms available at the door
Also: Faculty of Business & Law open meeting organised by UCU Moorgate: MG-G12, Wed 18th March 1-2pm
Sign our petition:

Dear Student, 
This is in response to the recent letter you received from John Raftery, London Metropolitan University's Vice-Chancellor.
It appears from his letter that the Vice-Chancellor believes you are currently being provided with far too much staff time and guidance. So much in fact that he wants to reduce the number of staff providing you with that support. He says this is what lies behind his decision to sack 165 of your lecturers and support staff. The very staff that are currently tasked with providing you with the support you require for your studies. As elected officers of the trade unions representing those staff we want to take this opportunity to provide you with our point of view.

Read the rest here:

Please forward this email to non members and tell them it's not too late to join.  Non members can join here.


On behalf of the UNISON Branch Committee

Max Watson
UNISON Branch Secretary (& NEC)
London Met UNISON Office
T2-07, Tower Building
166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB
(Mon - Wed):  020 7133 2459
UNISON Blackberry: 07949 039 187

 https://plus.google.com/u/0/116986450383676213364/about https://twitter.com/LondonMetUNISON  

Research and Communications Manager
Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI)
London Metropolitan University
Room TM1-66, Tower Building
166-220 Holloway Road, London N7 8DB
(Thurs - Friday) Tel: 020 7133 5132


Monday, 2 March 2015

EAT found against Max Watson but UNISON won the bigger victory: I'm still in the workplace & so is Jawad Botmeh

Our Employment Appeal Tribunal against London Met for trade union victimisation was unsuccessful, it was announced Thursday.

The Appeal confirmed that one member of the establishment (Judge Shanks) supported fellow members of the establishment instead a trade unionist... hold the front page!

It was never going to be easy winning in a court of law. To be clear though - we did win our campaign for reinstatement in 2013 and that was the bigger victory.

It was not because the law was on our side: we won because we mobilised and took collective action.

We gathered support for our case in the corridors of our workplaces, not in the corridors of power.

We convinced the members of our unions and our communities that our cause was just but we couldn't convince the courts of justice.

And whilst the judges turned their back on us, our supporters rallied to our cause in their hundreds.
When we launched our campaign, with a press release and a call for action to lobby the first hearing for Jawad, dozens appeared on Holloway Rd within less than 24 hours’ notice.

Raw footage of the moment Harry Lister, UNISON full time officer at the time, announced that management had just blinked first.

Initially they were going to suspend Jawad in his absence as he was on leave when I was suspended on 7th February.

They conceded to wait a few days until he returned to defend himself, but this was at the 11th hour and only after they’d seen the crowds gathering on their doorstep demanding justice.

A petition was started and soon gathered momentum with 2,500 signatures.

Hundreds and hundreds of emails and letters were sent to the VC and Director of HR via our UNISON branch website.

A model motion was passed (originally by SOAS branch) and taken up by branches up and down the country, which lead to £2,000 being raised in donations from Hackney Trades Union Council, UNISON Hackney LG, UNISON Kensington and Chelsea LG, UNISON Southampton LG, UNISON University College London, UNISON Senate House and EdExcel, UNISON Manchester Metropolitan University, London Organisers Network.

A blog, a Facebook group and a twitter profile were all buzzing with daily updates.

An excellent legal team for Jawad was certainly helpful, no doubt, in persuading the VC to back down when they claimed he had not correctly identified his criminal conviction upon employment. In fact he had.

Another lobby bringing together activists from Jawad’s original campaign for Freedom, and trade unionists who were familiar with our branch as a result of our long running battles against management at London Met was twice as big as before.

At a speech at UNISON’s NEC, I reiterated the issue was about targeting of all trade union activists we secured the support of UNISON’s leadership.

At a rally a week or so later, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS, spoke alongside national UCU and UNISON officers.

We’d already got support from the RMT and TSSA General Secretaries - the next step was to be a message of support from the TUC.

A ballot for industrial action was approved if there was any move to dismiss the Chair of our UNISON Branch.

With the tide of support on our side Lyn Link, the Director of HR, suddenly  resigned. After all these bitter disputes over the years, members celebrated and we sensed victory.

At UNISON’s packed AGM, the day Jawad was reinstated on 12th March, and the day before I was, the branch was in celebratory mood and Jawad received a standing ovation.

A week later we celebrated in style in ‘El Comandante’ and raised a few glasses to victory, a rare thing for trade unionists to do these days. That is a moment I will savour for the rest of my life.

Management backed down but they went ahead and disciplined me to save face and gag me for a few months. It was this detriment we challenged through the courts, so we set to prove their anti-trade unionism.

A Freedom of Information request unveiled an abundance of evidence. Emails about me from the senior managers included phrases such as “The Enemy within”.

When I was campaigning with feminists and trade union activists to save The Women’s Library, Paul Bowler dismissed our valid concerns as simply: “Max and his Cronies trying to cause mischief!”

When Alison Wells, the legal Secretary claimed there was “no plague virulent enough to unleash” on me, her secretary joked he thought I should “go skydiving”. He resigned shortly after that was revealed at the Employment Tribunal.

Alison Wells left the University some months later and the Times Higher Education published her 'Plague' statement about me in their headline and her justification: it was just 'banter' (isn't it always?)...

Paul Bowler repeatedly labelled me as a “1970’s ‘Bully Boy’ style of Union Official” to his colleagues, and he declared he was known as always favouring “a tougher stance on the unions”.

Jonathan Woodhead (Malcolm Gillies personal adviser, previously David Willets' personal adviser) claimed I was ranting "in true SWP style" at one protest. I was even asked during cross examination "do you have an allegiance to the SWP?" Answer: "No I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the SWP!"

The judges did at least concede, there was “unusually strong evidence of anti-union animus on the part of the University” towards both UNISON and me personally:

“The ET found that the relationship between the University and the unions was “fraught,” that there were a number of areas of dispute, and that Mr Watson was regarded by some members of the senior management team as a “thorn in the side”.

That is of course, not enough for us to win however.

So we also set about showing the case against me was flawed: Peter McCaffery, when cross examined, accepted there was in fact no evidence of dishonesty on my part yet that was a key charge against me. And having accepted he should not have upheld that charge it was then explained because he "it seems he was somewhat confused”.

Employment law is not written in our favour. By all accounts it’s extremely hard to win a trade union victimisation case. One expert told me: "the chances of winning a case are so much weighted against the claimant always."

It was important to take it as far as we could, though. We could have settled with the final written warning – but we challenged them every inch of the way.

When we lost the legal case it was extremely disappointing and we could have walked away and called it quits. So we took the appeal knowing that was our last chance. It was important too for our members to know this legal case was funded and supported by our union.

We set a marker down and the University should hopefully have learned a lesson and will know that if they try to victimise one of our reps again we will always stand fully behind them.

Two years after being suspended, I am branch secretary and still on the NEC of our union. Our branch submitted a motion which got heard at National Delegates Conference 2014 and passed to become policy of our national union: "Defending Trade Union Activists (and our Facilities Time)" to ensure we do all we can to defend our reps.

You can watch the speeches at NDC firstly by Ros Hanmer:

Sandy Nichol, here:

And Mark Evans here:

Jawad is still working at London Met. He was punished by the state for being a Palestinian activist in 1994 and only released fourteen years later. So a six months final written warning and constant harassment in the work place for being a trade union rep is nothing in comparison.

And I don’t regret for a second the moment I was asked by a mutual friend “do you know of any jobs coming up Jawad could apply for?” And I stand by the statement I gave at the time of my suspension here, that I was proud to have been part of giving him a second chance in life.

Ultimately we won the bigger victory and we remain at work with our heads held high. On the other hand, Gillies has gone, Wells has gone and so has Lyn Link.

You can read the full judgment here.

Thanks once again to each and every person who supported us along the way.

Onwards and upwards!