Yesterday’s General Meeting
Between 250 and 300 people attended the UCU General Meeting in the Worsely Medical Lecture Theatre yesterday afternoon, leaving standing room only for those who arrived after 1pm. UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt, who had arranged to speak at the meeting had been held back by the snow in Brighton, from where she had set off early that morning. She is re-arranging her diary to be able to come and speak to members next Thursday, at 1pm. This, and a venue, will be confirmed shortly.
Malcolm Povey opened the meeting by explaining that talks between the University and UCU were held on 11 January under the auspices of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), to explore ways of resolving the current dispute between the UCU and University management. Both sides agreed to meet again next week to continue those talks. Respecting the confidentiality of those talks, Malcolm then set out our position very clearly (all of which was already in the public domain). He offered a narrative that began with the section 188 letter sent to the Unions last summer, the failure of the university consequently to uphold its statutory obligation to mitigate against redundancies (in fact the number of them in FBS increased over the summer), and the more recent bringing forward by management of the deadline of the job matching process in FBS to 9am of the day of the first meeting with ACAS. Members were also reminded of the details of the dubious nature of the job matching process.
Regional official, Mark Oley, told members that of all the requests he had put to the University under Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act in his letter of 4 November, he had received replies to none.
Questions and comments were then taken from the floor. Staff in the Faculty of Biological Sciences spoke of a ‘climate of fear’ that management had generated there. One member of that Faculty explained that he had made a Freedom of Information request to see the budget figures on which the Faculty plan were based. He had heard from the University’s legal advisor that the information he had requested was disclosable under the FOI Act, but that, despite this and the requirement of that act of parliament being that disclosure should be made within twenty days, over forty days later that information has still not been released. Another member of FBS staff spoke to the information that the University had put up on its website explaining why FBS was under review (blaming the staff). This web page was so full of misinformation (it was described as ‘grossly misleading’) that it will be the subject of an annotated web page on the blog shortly.
A member from History asked what kind of action would be taken if we won the ‘Yes’ vote, and Malcolm told the meeting that action would be decided by EGMs called as required. A member from English reminded the meeting that the University was pursuing cuts when it had cash and near-cash reserves of £90M, even though it is required by law to hold no more than half of that, and reminded the meeting that the University was taking out a loan for £35M for capital projects it had been describing in press releases last year as ‘the biggest since the 1960s’. The argument that a yes/yes vote was the most certain way we could avoid taking strike action received a round of applause. A member from the Institute of Transport Studies reminded the meeting that the ballot was not just about the Faculty of Biological Sciences, but also the other ten areas under review, and then the rest of the University once the ‘Economies Exercise’ begins to bite. This too received applause.
The mood was overwhelmingly supportive of the union position. Members present were asked to talk to their colleagues and encourage them to vote ‘Yes’. Stephen Lax reminded members of the work of the action committee and invited further membership of that committee.
The meeting concluded with a unanimous vote in favour of a motion of support for the ‘Right to Work‘ conference.