Dear Ms. Levin of UNISON London Region,
It has recently come to my attention that you have been meeting with Cofely management at the University of London with regard to the Garden Halls redundancy procedures. As you know, over 50 Cofely employees- the majority of whom are cleaners- are at risk of redundancy and Cofely is required by law to consult with the independent recognized trade union, which is UNISON. Despite the fact that the majority of Garden Halls Cofely employees have left UNISON and joined the IWGB, Cofely still consults with you and you happily rubber-stamp Cofely’s proposals. Indeed it appears you even recently gave UNISON’s approval to Cofely’s proposed selection criteria, i.e. the criteria the company will use to decide which workers are able to continue working and which workers will lose their jobs. These selection criteria- widely opposed by the workers themselves- include allocating points for workers’ abilities to demonstrate Cofely’s company values. These values- which are not even known to some of the managers in charge of the recruitment- are “daring”, “drive”, “cohesion”, and “commitment”. Putting aside my difficulty in distinguishing between a toilet cleaned in a “daring” manner and one cleaned in a “not-daring” manner, the problem with these criteria are that they are highly subjective and lend themselves to management favouratism. However, given that the Cleaning Services Manager is also the UNISON rep, I could understand why this might not bother you.
Of course, your most recent episode of rubber stamp unionism is just one more indication of the flourishing relationship between Cofely and UNISON. Ironically, this relationship seemed to really kick off once nearly all the Cofely UNISON members left the union for the IWGB. This was met with a letter from your boss- UNISON London Region manager Maggi Ferncombe- to ex-UNISON members telling them that the IWGB wasn’t a union and couldn’t represent them. Then there were the UNISON posters on official Cofely workplace noticeboards entitled “Have you been lied to” and “Beware of cheap imitations” containing slanderous accusations against the IWGB. Cofely returned the favour by including a one page advert for UNISON in their company newsletter at UoL and by granting UNISON an unprecedented level of access to employees in working hours and on-site, and Sharon Bracey, the Cleaning Services Manager in charge of over 100 cleaners and porters, has even been appointed the workplace rep for UNISON at Cofely. And this isn’t just any manager- it is a manager who initiates disciplinary procedures against cleaners, has put workers on 0 hours contracts, and has even been taken to an employment tribunal on allegations of discrimination.
But it doesn’t stop there- Cofely and UNISON responded to the IWGB strike in November of 2013 by agreeing a deal on terms and conditions without any consultation of the workforce. And then there was that dreadful Guardian article (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/mar/24/cost-private-contracts-universities-documents-services-workers) which showed that UNISON was colluding with the University of London in order to “counter” the 3 Cosas Campaign, and UNISON even went as far as to suggest that if the University of London were to offer up just one additional day’s annual leave that it could suffice to undercut the campaign.
Given that I find it hard to believe there remain many substantive differences in politics or values between your two organisations, I wonder if it might not be more efficient and politically expedient for UNISON Senate House/London Region and Cofely to engage in a merger and form a new entity? You could call it COFLISON. This could save you time and money in terms of having to coordinate communications strategies, press releases, facilities time, etc. And if you were one entity there would be less public pressure on UNISON to actually have to consult or pretend to represent those cleaners who never seem to be satisfied with UNISON’s indefatigable efforts to sell them out. Of course if you did merge, you might be left with the unenviable task of having to make some managers redundant. Surely it wouldn’t make sense to have two regional managers, two contract managers, etc.? It would be more efficient to have managers double up- as is already being done in the case of Sharon Bracey, the Cleaning Services Manager and workplace rep. In order to comply with employment law you would have to come up with selection criteria for this redundancy procedure. I’ve given this a bit of thought and can suggest the following rigorous and objective criteria:
- Managers who can demonstrate that their favourite colour is, always has been, and always will be orange- 10 points;
- Managers who can simultaneously tap their heads and rub their bellies for 67 seconds on demand- 10 points;
- Managers who can demonstrate (in their selection interviews) commitment to COFLISON company values – 50 points.
COFLISON would have to identify new company values, but I would propose the following: arrogance, dishonesty, incompetence, and willingness to sell out workers.
If you do not decide to merge with Cofely, please consider the following. The IWGB is not going anywhere and indeed this union’s membership density only continues to increase, especially among Cofely workers. Even with three regional employees present at UoL, UNISON has been unable to repair the damage they have done. Your rubber stamp unionism, blatant collusion with management, appointment of a manager as rep, and disdainful disregard for workers has made your presence at the University of London one of the biggest embarrassments to the UK trade union movement today. Until you pull out of your recognition agreement with Cofely and thereby enable the workers to represent themselves through the union they have chosen, we will continue to call you out on your appalling behaviour.