You have recently written a blog post on behalf of UNISON Senate House Branch, entitled “Terms and Conditions: Success at Last!” In this post you announce (4 months late) the fact that Cofely workers now have up to 6 months sick pay and 25 days holiday. You then attribute this victory to UNISON activists, negotiations and campaigning. This post is so ridiculous I seriously considered whether it was even worth responding to, however given that some uninformed individuals might read it, I guess it is important to set some facts straight. Given that nearly every sentence is either enormously misleading or just a blatant lie, I would ask you in advance to bear with me on the tedious nature of the task at hand.
You begin the post by saying “negotiations took months of meetings”. That may be true, however what you leave out is the fact that the negotiations were conducted in secret and without the consultation or consent of the outsourced workers. But most importantly, the negotiations were being used by UNISON officials to undermine the outsourced workers’ 3 Cosas Campaign. Indeed a Guardian article which came out yesterday (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/24/cost-private-contracts-universities-documents-services-workers) revealed that UNISON had told the University of London that they were keen to “counter” the campaign and even suggested that if the University were to offer up just one additional day’s annual leave that that could “suffice” to shut the cleaners up.
You go on to say that the campaign was the product of combined efforts of Senate House and London Region UNISON activists. That’s true, until of course, all the Senate House UNISON activists left UNISON in disgust in March, 2013 after UNISON invalidated an election on technicalities in order to prevent pro- 3 Cosas Campaign candidates from winning. When we all left we created a new branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) where we have been for nearly a year. We are now the biggest union at the University of London Central Administration, and represent a majority of Cofely employees. There are only a handful of outsourced workers who are still UNISON members and these are dominated by managers and supervisors. And sorry to be nit-picky on the details, but the announcement on terms and conditions was made on the afternoon of the second day of a strike by IWGB outsourced workers.
You then go on to say “leaflets were sent, campaign funds were spent, protests were held”. This is all true, but you do leave out a few points. UNISON paid for absolutely nothing. Not one p. In a branch committee meeting in November of 2012 we presented a budget for the campaign of just over £2,200. We had enough votes on committee to pass the budget but Simon Meredith, Vice-Chair of the branch, with the support of Tony Mabbott, a UNISON London Region official, refused to allow a vote. Various committee members called for a vote but the vote was blocked and the “leaders” stormed out of the room. Not only did UNISON not pay for leaflets, but the UNISON London Region official tried to stitch up the previous Communications Officer (who was a key player in the London Living Wage and 3 Cosas Campaigns) by telling the University of London that the printing bill he had racked up for the union was his personal responsibility and he therefore owed UoL a lot of money. This is despite the fact that all his printing had been democratically approved at committee meetings- but UNISON and democracy have a difficult relationship. And with regard to the protests, yes protests were held but the Senate House Branch “leadership” was glaring in its absence. Furthermore, Maggi Ferncombe, the UNISON London Region manager, sent out public letters distancing UNISON from the protests. University and Cofely management then put these up on notice boards and used them to discredit the campaign.
You say that there were some hiccups with the new contracts and that these were brought to management’s attention through UNISON reps. It is true that there were some problems and the IWGB brought these to the attention of management. Of course there is one UNISON rep who likely brought some of these issues up. That would be Sharon Bracey, the UNISON workplace rep for Cofely who is also the Cleaning Services Manager, in charge of roughly 140 cleaners and porters. She initiates disciplinary procedures against cleaners, puts people on 0 hours contracts, etc. And yes, she is the best person UNISON could find to be a workplace rep. I’m sorry to point out the blatantly obvious, but when workers raise contract concerns with her they are not doing so because she is a UNISON rep, but rather because she is their boss.
Your closing lines, where you congratulate the cleaners on their hard work and claim credit for the victory are so disdainfully hypocritical that it defies common sense to think you can write something like that and not be challenged on it. In sum, it is probably worthwhile for the UNISON Senate House branch to do some reflection on why it has lost nearly all its low paid members, all of its activists, and a large contingent of direct employees. What’s left of UNISON at Senate House is now run by a collection of managers, pathological liars, and unelected autocratic bureaucrats masquerading as a union. As far as I can tell the plan for building this organisation appears to be based on selling subsidized car insurance, broken promises, and a re-writing of history that would make Stalin proud. Good luck!
Since the stitch up with the Unison election which made so many of us walk out in disgust, it was clear that something wasn’t right with this branch of Unison. It was beginning to look as if the University of London branch of Unison was in bed with the university. What came out in the Guardian was proof this.
When OCS won the contract to take over the reception, cleaning and porters, some of the reception staff was so unhappy at the unprofessional way in which the OCS managers was treating them.
The Unison representative for SAS asked the contract staff to put down all of their grievances in a letter which was to be handed into UoL human resources. When I read the reception staff’s complaints, I was shocked that they were allowed to be treated almost like people of no worth.
When the OCS managers were told of the complaints by their own contract staff, the SAS representative for Unison members bullying at work increased until she had no choice but to leave.
One of the things I read was that disciplinaries was being handed out like sweets for the most silly things and if there was a dispute, before the contract staff had even been heard it was an instant disciplinary, they just wasn’t listened to or cared about.
When Balfour Beatty Workplace took over things was a mess and it was also clear that the BBW together with the university was trying to make it look like everything was running smoothly and that they was saving so much money. This was at the cost of the outsourced workers.
I know one person who was reprimanded on the order of UoL management for highlighting the mess when cracks started to appear.
One BBW manager for the porters and cleaners tried to help her staff and she was given the push almost instantly. This was a warning for all of the other BBW and UoL manages involved in or out of Unison that if they don’t do as they are expected by the university they won’t last long. So it is no surprise that Unison reps are selling out the people they are meant to represent only to save their own jobs. In the current climate I have to have a limited amount of sympathy for them.
I think it should be made clear for people with obvious conflicts of interest, should be barred from standing as reps for unions.
Are you going to jeopardise your position to help workers at the risk to your own job when you see what has happened to those who passed before you? Everyone
Now knows that Unison is no longer in a position to represent anybody but the university management at the literal cost of Unison members, it’s a scam and has now been exposed as such. Why would any member of a union pay for their representatives to keep them under? This is why the university will only accept Unison as the recognised union, because they have them in their pockets and they know Unison will offer no resistance to UoL policy.
If the university are sceptical that BBW was making a loss from the contract then why would BBW give it up if it was such a money spinner? BBW must have said that they could fulfil the contract for less than everyone else and found in practice they actually couldn’t despite squeezing the contract staff.
Now Cofely Workplace has taken over a loss making contract from Balfour Beatty Workplace, how on earth do they think they will make a profit where BBW couldn’t? It will fall on the contract staff.
This kind of nonsense needs to be stamped out because they have no place in a modern society, I cannot believe we are in the 21st century and people in what is called a civilized society are still fighting for basic human rights. Are we going to regress into sweat shop run contract companies like our media so often like to highlight in other countries?
What kind of future can people expect if more and more companies are being forced as if it was an agenda to treat their staff like this while people in positions who could make a difference do nothing to help their fellow citizens apart from sending them down the social ladder?
Fear is what controls these people. Fear of if they speak out they might end up at the bottom like the contract staff or worse, so they keep it buttoned. Going from a manager working from 08:00-17:00 on a good salary to a cleaner working 3 jobs from 05:00-21:30 everyday just to pay the bills is not a thrilling prospect.
It costs nothing to speak out when you have nothing to lose but when you stand to lose everything people in high positions only utter one word and that is yes sir.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said we have nothing to fear but fear itself, the fact that the elite don’t want to hear people below them complain, discredit them by manipulation, lies and clamping down on their right to free speech and expression shows that they are indeed in fear, fear of exposure.
We need to continue to fight, because if we don’t we simply get what we all deserve, which is the very world we live in today controlled by corrupt, compromised and fearful officials who are selling us out at the drop of a hat to secure what they themselves enjoy.