Industrial dispute 2011

Below you will see archived reports of the industrial dispute which took place in 2011, when management issued redundancy notices to 95 support staff, but which was defeated through a united campaign of all campus unions, together with widespread support from local MPs, MSPs, and the local press:


You may be wondering (as all union members are) how GCU management got into this sorry state of firstly being in dispute with the unions, and now  threatening major job losses at GCU. Some may believe both issues are linked – we’ll let you make your mind up about that.

Below you will see the unions’ position on what, it now turns out was only the first step in a series of unilateral steps which quite frankly are not a serious way to run labour relations in a major university like the GCU.

Item 1: 08/02/2011

Subject: Declaration of Dispute with GCU Senior Management
From the convenor of the Combined Unions Committee to all members

Hi all
As you may recall from email last week the trade unions on campus were going to raise concerns with senior management regarding the unilateral imposition of several HR policies without full involvement of the trade unions.  These have been announced in various fora in the University as new policies.
These were
*   Disciplinary Policy
*   Capability Policy
*   Investigation Policy
*   Avoidance of Redundancy Policy
*   Redeployment Policy
*   Redundancy Policy
*   Redundancy Pay Policy
*   Grading Review Policy
*   Framework for Staff Working Overseas
As previously explained none of these policies were negotiated or signed off with the trade unions.  Our collective bargaining agreement with the University states that all issues related to core terms and conditions are subject to negotiation.   Clearly all of these policies fall into this category.  Indeed it was the trade unions who raised the possibility of negotiating an Avoidance of Redundancy policy – now it has been simply introduced by management without trade union input!
This not only goes against University governance structures but also past practice. The trade unions successfully negotiated changes to the PDAR policy last year and previous Grievance, Disciplinary and other policies were all created following negotiations.   Indeed the new Complaints policy  which replaces the Grievance Policy (announced at the same time as the above list)  was finally negotiated late last year as management took on board changes proposed by the Unions.
The Director of Human Resources, Keith Ross, took our concerns and our request that these policies are suspended until proper negotiations are concluded to the Executive Board.  As you can see from his response below the Executive Board rejected this, indeed have endorsed these “unagreed” policies.
This is a very unfortunate approach for senior management to take given the austerity climate we are in and the likelihood of further cuts to our services here at GCU.
Collective bargaining with the trade unions on campus who represent the majority of staff has been blatantly ignored.  As a result the trade unions on campus have declared a dispute.  Our advice to trade union members is not to cooperate with any of the policies listed.  If your  line manager attempts to use any of them contact your trade union rep as soon as possible.
The trade unions are now in the process of involving their full time officials to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.
All the best
Dr Nick McKerrell
Convenor of Glasgow Caledonian Combined Union Committee.

Item 2: 14th February 2011 16.38
Subject: Combined Union Response to Keith Ross.

Hi all
You will have seen the message sent by Keith Ross, the Interim HR Director, regarding the Campus Trade Unions’ dispute with senior management sent at 1642 on Friday afternoon.
It is extremely regrettable that such a message was sent out in a forum (GCU – all) which can only be accessed by management and in which the trade unions cannot respond in kind.   In short, it marks a serious escalation of the dispute.
There are 2 central issues which the dispute centres around and which were skirted over by Keith Ross’ message.
1)      Collective Bargaining.
Glasgow Caledonian University recognises 5 trade unions for the purposes of collective bargaining.  The majority of staff at GCU chose to exercise their democratic right to join a trade union for the purpose of representing them in the workplace and negotiating on issues related to their terms and conditions of employment.  In doing this members make a financial commitment.
The negotiating  machinery of Glasgow Caledonian operates through a body called the Joint Consultative Committee (the JCC),  negotiations take place until a policy is agreed. These take place in an open forum and do not require “written feedback”.  This is not a “veto” by the trade unions but a recognised democratic process that has worked well in GCU until recently.  If management  and the unions cannot conclude the negotiations  then a “failure to agree” is noted.  Then the policy goes to an Employment Forum chaired by the Principal. You may recall this occurred with the PDAR policy last year where negotiations were finally fairly concluded.
It is scaremongering to suggest that negotiation is “unsustainable” because the University has legal requirements.  There are already policies in place until negotiations are concluded.
The unilateral introduction of the “policies” listed below marks a major move from these recognised processes.  In particular Disciplinary, Capability, Avoidance of Redundancy and Grading Review relate fundamentally to staff terms and conditions.
GCU management have in fact sanctioned an unacceptable attack on the principle of collective bargaining and by implication all trade union members on campus.
2)       Local Trade Union Representation
There is a large degree of innuendo in Keith Ross’ statement on local trade union representatives putting their own views above that of the membership at GCU – whether for “personal” reasons, “opposing government policies” or because they have “alternative views on the University’s strategy and priorities”.   This suggests that trade union representatives are there solely speaking for themselves.
This again is an unacceptable attack on trade union representation at GCU.  All union representatives give their time to speak and represent members at GCU – with no recognised facility time.  In effect doing it alongside their full time job.  Further every rep has to face election every year from their members.  Members have the opportunity to remove them if they are unhappy with the job they are doing.
Such attacks on local trade unionists do no-one any good.
The trade unions at GCU met at lunchtime today to agree this response.   We plan to call for a meeting between our union full-time officials and management at GCU as soon as possible.  We also plan  to call a local rally in defence of trade union rights here at GCU.  Details to follow.
Here is guide to policies listed by Keith Ross
·         Complaints Resolution Policy – Accepted and Negotiated successfully with trade unions – Autumn 2010
·         Disciplinary Policy: Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
·         Capability Policy: Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
·         Investigation Policy: Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
·         Avoidance of Redundancy Policy: Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
·         Redeployment Policy: Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
·         Redundancy Policy: Trade Unions will not negotiate on compulsory redundancies.
·         Redundancy Pay Policy: Trade Unions will not negotiate on compulsory redundancies
·         Grading Review Policy: Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
·         Framework for Staff Working Overseas:  Unaccepted and requires further negotiation
If your line manager attempts to use any of the unaccepted policies contact your trade union rep as soon as possible.

All the best
Branch Convenor of Glasgow Caledonian EIS/ULA
Convenor of GCU Combined Union Committee.
Dr Nick McKerrell

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