February 22, 2019

Voluntary Severance

As a trade union, assisting people to leave their jobs is not, ideally, what we’d be doing, but we aim to provide help and assistance to all our members, whatever the circumstances.

If you are going through the process, here is a rough guide to it and what we can do to help you.

 

If you’ve indicated that you want to go ahead with the settlement, HR will send out hard copies of the legal document as well as emailing a pdf to you.

You need to have legal advice and a signature from someone who is qualified to sign this type of document. The University will pay the £350 plus VAT that should cover the cost.

As a UNISON member, you can either use UNISON’s solicitor, Thompsons or find one yourself. There is no real advantage to using Thompsons and if you’d prefer a face-to-face discussion then you may opt to go to a high street solicitor, but the option of using Thompsons is available.

If you want to use Thompsons, the process is:

  1. You read the document, check the amount and make sure there is nothing that you are unhappy with.
  2. You send the pdf of the agreement to unisonhelp@brighton.ac.uk, and we will also need you to confirm your contact details – name, address, email, contact number. The phone number is important because Thompsons will use this method to contact you.
  3. We will send off the electronic version of the agreement and your details to Thompsons.
  4. Thompsons will check the paperwork and contact you directly to discuss it with you.
  5. They will check that you’re happy, answer any questions and make sure you understand the nature of what you’re about to agree.
  6. If you still wish to go ahead, Thompsons will sign the document and arrange to send their signed copy to you. This is your last chance to withdraw from the process if you change your mind.
  7. On receipt, you sign the document yourself and then return it to the University by the deadline.
  8. The University will sign the document and this then becomes a binding agreement that neither party can withdraw from.
  9. You will leave on the agreed date and your final salary payment will include your wages for the month as normal and the settlement amount. They will probably assume that you’ll take any outstanding annual leave before you go.

 

Thompsons will reclaim their costs from the University, so there’s no need to worry about that.

If you’d sooner use your own legal people then the process will be similar, and again, the responsibility of getting the signed paperwork back to the University on time will be yours.

We can recommend https://www.pureemploymentlaw.co.uk/ (01243 836840) or you might want to use a solicitor you are familiar with if you have one already.

There’s no need to panic about the timescale, but we would suggest that this is done as early as possible to avoid the University potentially withdrawing the offer if the process is not complete on time.

We would, however, urge all members wanting to use Thompsons to get the emails back to us as soon as possible.

 

 

If you end up leaving the University, we hope you go on to greater things. Thanks for being a member and giving us the strength to campaign for all workers at the University.

Obviously, we would encourage you to make sure you’re in a trade union in your next job and ask others to join.

If you’re paying your union subs through payroll then this will obviously stop when you stop being paid (!) If you’re paying by direct debit then it’s up to you to cancel this with you bank. (We can’t do that for you!)

 

If you’re retiring or just taking a break, we would encourage you to think about becoming a retired member or an unemployed member.

Retired membership costs £15 for life – just fill in a form and send us a cheque.

About

Unemployed membership costs £4 a year and lasts for two years – just send us a cheque for £4 and we’ll amend your membership status.

If you have any questions on any of this then please feel free to get in touch with your local rep.

February 6, 2019

Annual General Meeting 2019

All members are invited to this year’s AGM, which will take place on

Wednesday 6th March at 12.30pm, Cockcroft Hall, Moulsecoomb.

A free buffet lunch will be available from 12pm.

We’re always very happy with the number of people who can make this, so please come along if you can.

Please complete our survey if you intend to be there.

All members have the right to attend, so if you give your line manager notice that you want to, they should provide cover where necessary.

If you’re travelling from outside Moulsecoomb, we’re happy to pay reasonable travel expenses as long as you have the receipts.

February 1, 2019

Higher Education Conference 2019

UNISON’s annual conference of higher education branches and members took place in Nottingham in January. Our branch was represented by Dan Simmonds and Sian Williams as delegates, with Alan Dilley there as a visitor and Sarah Pickett and Ivan Bonsell attending as regional reps.

The conference is the decision making body for the union, as far as Higher Education is concerned, and aims to guide the Service Group Executive in its work during the year, overseeing what branches are doing and trying to develop the work of branches in delivering meaningful results for our members.

Seventeen motions were debated, most without much controversy. Many were committing the union to do various bits of campaigning over issues of which members will be familiar, such as a 35 hour week, academy schools, pensions, outsourcing and equalities.

Part of the issue with UNISON conferences is the difficulties of getting motions and amendments onto the agenda. The Standing Orders Committee decides what can and what can’t be discussed as conference business. Of four amendments submitted, only one was allowed and all three emergency motions were deemed to not really be emergencies. Dan and Sian met with the Standing Orders Committee several times but they weren’t budging on their decision. Our emergency motion on how to deal with the outcome of the Augar review of higher education funding was, frustratingly, not discussed at all.

The one amendment which did make it as far as the conference was our branch’s amendment on pay dispute tactics and this did, quite rightly, provoke some debate.

As we’ve written about before, an important aspect of annual pay increases is not so much about what you ask for, but how a trade union is going to make sure that it delivers meaningful increases for all its members (and non-members who are happy to accept the benefits of our efforts.)

There was no debate on the substantive pay motion, which commits the union to demanding an August 2019 pay increase of 3% plus whatever the retail price index is (RPI, currently about 2.7%). This demand is combined with a 35 hour week for everyone and meaningful progress for all universities to eliminate the gender pay gap and become living wage employers.

The amendment moved by Sian, on behalf of our branch, would commit the union, in the event of a pay dispute (which is likely because we’re not going to be offered 3%+RPI without the threat of strike action!), to organise a ballot of members on the basis of a disaggregated ballot.

This is a way of dealing with the anti-democratic Trades Union Act, which prevents unions legally taking industrial action without a 50% ballot turnout. A disaggregate ballot treats each university pay claim as a separate dispute, which would mean that we’d only need a 50% turnout here to take action, rather than aiming to achieve it across all universities.

We’ve explained this before, in January’s newsletter and elsewhere, but the view of our branch is that this is a much better tactic than hoping to improve on last year’s 31% turnout within a year. Having another aggregate ballot nationally this year is almost certainly a case of doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Anyway, the debate took place with good contributions on both sides, but our amendment was lost by about 60-65% of the vote of delegates. This means that there will still be some debate about how to progress the pay claim, but it may be that those of us who advocated a different approach will have to wait until we can win the argument.

If you have any questions about the conference or the pay claim feel free to get in touch, in the usual way.

 

 

January 17, 2019

Higher Education Conference 2019

Our branch sent delegates and visitors to this year’s higher education conference in Nottingham last week.

You can read UNISON’s official version of what was discussed on the national website here:

Conference sets ambitious pay policy for 2019

and here

‘You do fabulous work; you deserve decent pay’

but for a more complete and honest assessment of what was discussed, you’ll need to read our branch’s report, available here and in the newsletter soon.

January 17, 2019

January 2019 newsletter

Hi all, a belated Happy New Year to all our members, and if you’re reading this and you’re not a member then please have a long hard think about joining.

Our first newsletter of 2019 has been available for a while, but if you’ve not seen it yet you can find it by following the newsletter link (top-right menu.)

November 12, 2018

November 2018 newsletter is finally here

Apologies for this month’s newsletter appearing a bit later than usual.

You can find it in the usual place – Newsletter shortcut in the top right-hand corner, where you can find back issues as well.

Please let us know if you have any comments.

October 30, 2018

2018-19 Pay Campaign Strike Ballot Result

Members may already have seen the result of our national postal ballot over pay.

The national website has details here.

61.9% of members who voted, voted to reject the 2.0% pay offer and were prepared to take strike action, but the turnout of 31.0% falls short of what is required to take the campaign further.
We are very pleased that a clear majority of members voted in accordance with the national recommendation, endorsed by our branch, that we should firmly reject a below-inflation increase, since it represents a real-terms pay cut.

Normally, we would now be preparing for action and coordinating with UCU and other unions to make the action as effective as possible.

Unfortunately, the viciously anti-democratic Trade Union Act says that a 50% turnout in a strike ballot is required for the legal strike action to take place. All other democratic votes stipulate no such restrictions, but combined with 20th century rules on postal-only balloting, these regulations are specifically designed to make it as difficult as possible for trade-unionists to organise, particularly in relation to effective strike action.

Many of our members and activists will, quite correctly, be angry and frustrated at this outcome. For years we have seen our wages fall back in real terms and every year, we aim to campaign for a real-terms increase with an element of catch-up to bring us back to where we should be. Even at universities where employers have agreed to pay the real living wage, many of our members are struggling to afford even the essentials.

For many of us, it felt like this year would be different. With ballots timed to match those of UCU and campaigning material produced and distributed to branches, it looked like we were better prepared to deliver a significant result which could have breached the 50% turnout threshold.

Whilst many activists thought that a 50% turnout represented a significant challenge, that didn’t stop the most active branches and activists from campaigning to reach it. At Brighton we visited most workplaces with leaflets and emphasised over and over again how members need to make sure their vote is returned, by post, before the deadline. We produced one regional newsletter and a guide to voting. We also contacted many of our members by phone, at work, to check that they had voted and guide them to do so if they hadn’t.

Since we don’t have a regional or institutional breakdown of votes (we’re trying to establish if we can get that), we don’t know how successful our campaign at Brighton has been. What’s clear is that there is an enormous amount of work to do on a national basis if we are to attempt the same project next year. Whilst Labour have promised to repeal the Trade Union Act, it would seem that if the Act is still in place next year, we would be best advised to ballot on the basis of a disaggregate ballot, which would mean that if we achieved 50% at an individual university (as opposed to nationally) then this would allow local strike action to take place, which could still be coordinated with UCU and other unions.

Whilst moving away from national action, albeit as a result of adopting a pragmatic approach, may not be ideal (and debates over different tactics to use will continue), it would at least give us some options if we are to do what trade unions should be doing, and deliver meaningful increases to pay and pensions for our members from the autumn of 2019.

We’d like to thank all our members who played a part in this campaign, even if their only contribution was to make sure that they voted! We know that many of our members went further than that and encouraged others to do so. Many activists gave up their time and energy for the benefit of all, in the best traditions of trade-unionism.

We talked to many people over the last six weeks. Our branch has clearly been strengthened as a result of the campaign, even if the outcome is not what we would have liked.

The result represents a setback which the higher education service group of UNISON and the trade union movement has to learn from. It will be necessary to discuss and debate the way forward and draw up plans for delivering the best possible outcome for our members in the future.

Despite our disappointment, we will continue to campaign for the best possible working conditions for all our members, whilst laying the groundwork for the pay campaign of 2019.

October 9, 2018

2018-19 Postal Pay Ballot – two weeks left to vote!

If you work for the University and haven’t yet voted, you have two weeks to do so.

It’s really important that we get a decent turnout, so please make every effort to vote by the 25th October deadline.

If you’ve not had a ballot paper, please let us know and call 0800 0857 857 for another one.

Every vote will count, but every ballot paper that doesn’t get returned could mean that we can’t take action over a below-inflation pay offer.

There’s more info in our October newsletter.