Senate_House_UnisonDear Dave,

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!

-Jason Moyer-Lee

 

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