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 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.)

October 17, 2018

UNISON GUIDE ON RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTATION ON REFORM OF THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT

UNISON GUIDE ON RESPONDING TO THE CONSULTATION ON REFORM OF THE GENDER RECOGNITION ACT

 

Introduction

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) governs how trans people can have their identity legally recognised. This was groundbreaking in its time, but it is now seriously out of date and needs reform.

The Government is holding a public consultation on reform of the GRA. The full details of the consultation are here https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act-2004

UNISON believes that the current procedure for legal gender recognition is humiliating, bureaucratic and expensive. It requires trans people to go through intrusive medical assessments and interviews with psychiatrists in order to ‘prove’ their gender identity. It requires trans people to have a formal diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’, to live in their ‘acquired gender’ for two years, and submit evidence supporting all of this to a gender recognition panel (who have never met the applicant) who have the power to approve, or deny, an application. UNISON is fundamentally opposed to the idea that a panel of ‘experts’ can sit in judgement of a person’s gender identity.

People who are non-binary (they don’t identify as either male or female) don’t have any legal recognition at all under the current GRA. You also have to be 18 to get recognition of your gender identity under the current law.

UNISON supports calls for a self-declaration process, in line with international best practice, open to under 18s, and providing legal recognition for people with a non-binary gender identity

The GRA is separate from the Equality Act 2010. The Equality Act provides trans people with protection against discrimination, but it also contains exceptions that permit the exclusion of trans people from single sex  services, facilities and occupations if this is it is a proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim. There has been a great deal of alarmist and misleading information from some groups and in the media claiming that reforming the GRA will mean an end to these exceptions. However, the Government has made it clear that it is not reviewing the Equality Act, so these exceptions will remain.

In Scotland, gender recognition is a devolved matter. The Scottish Government has already held its own consultation, and thousands of people responded. You can see information on the responses, including the submissions from UNISON Scotland here http://www.unison-scotland.org/library/UNISON-response-to-Scottish-GRA-consultation.pdf

We can expect there will also be thousands of responses to the Government’s consultation. We need allies as well as trans people to fill in this survey so please take the time to do so. You have until October 19th at 11pm but if you would like more guidance you can find further information and guidance on the Stonewall website https://www.stonewall.org.uk/gender-recognition-act  and the LGBT Foundation website https://lgbt.foundation/gra

You can submit your response online through the government website: https://consult.education.gov.uk/government-equalities-office/reform-of-the-gender-recognition-act/

 

September 11, 2018

Brighton Legal Walk

The law team from the Brighton Business School has again taken part in the Brighton Legal Walk, which raises money for vital local legal advice charities.

Access to legal advice has been savaged over recent years, while need just keeps on rising.

Beneficiaries of the walk include Brighton Housing Trust, which has helped protect thousands of households from homelessness over the years, as well as being the last remaining provider of legal aid asylum and immigration advice in the whole of Sussex and Surrey. There’s also Money Advice Plus, which is ever more desperately needed since debt and welfare law were taken out of the scope of legal aid. Likewise Citizens Advice, which provides a vital service, has lost out hugely as a result of most of its work no longer being funded by legal aid.

Obviously, it could be argued that the government should be properly funding all of this, but the fact is that it’s not and people are denied not only their rights but even the means of survival in some cases, so please sponsor the law team for the 10K walk on Monday (10th) and fight for free local legal advice.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-display/showROFundraiserPage?userUrl=BrightonUniversity18&pageUrl=1

August 10, 2018

Disappointing result for carers

Some of you may be aware that for the past 2 years the Disability and Carers staff network group have put in a great deal of work towards creating a policy to help support staff with caring responsibilities. The policy put forward by the network group was put together after consultation with the university Equality and Diversity department and staff in the network group on what would help them stay in work whilst also fulfilling their caring duties as well as looking at best practices from other organisations. After many conversations with HR about the policy it is with great disappointment that I have to report that the University will be publishing a policy that is very watered down compared to that proposed by the network group.

A key recommendation that was removed was giving carers an additional 5 days paid leave in order that they may carry out some of their caring responsibilities without having to take annual leave or a pay cut. Senior management said that the University is not in a position to agree anything that might cost resources despite having no evidence that this additional, optional, provision would cost any money or productivity at all.

The suggestions put forward would have been reasonable adjustments that wouldn’t have cost much, if anything, and would have made life a lot easier for some of our staff. Whilst I agree having something is better than nothing, the policy put forward by HR does very little to actually help carers any more than any other member of staff would be entitled to anyway. It is very disheartening to see senior management disregarding recommendations from their staff, although perhaps not surprising in light of the recent staff survey results.

 

Emily Brooks

Equality and Diversity co-ordinator

April 16, 2018

Work-related stress? Come along to our lunchtime meeting this week

Image result for workstress logo

We’re pleased to announce that we have arranged for Bob Woods, from Workstress, the national work -stress network, to speak to UNISON members.

Bob will talk about how and why people feel stressed and what we as trade-unionists can do about it.

He’ll be here on Thursday 19th April, Room 117, Mithras House from 12pm to 2pm.

All UNISON members are invited for 12pm for a free light lunch and Bob will start at 12.30pm.

Feel free to drop in for some or all of Bob’s presentation and question & answer session.

 

We’re still campaigning for the University to run a proper survey on work-related stress, or we’ll do our own. More details to follow…

April 10, 2018

Inspirational Leadership?

Many people will be aware that the Vice Chancellor has been shortlisted for the Guardian’s Higher Education Inspiring Leader Award, due to be announced on 24th April.

Whilst we recognise that there has been change and a new direction of leadership since Debra’s arrival a few years ago, we think you’d struggle to find many workers or students at the University who would regard the architect of those changes as inspirational.

We’ve seen the closure of Hastings campus, resulting in the avoidable destruction of jobs, livelihoods and real educational opportunities for the town. For the first time ever, the University offered voluntary severance to members of staff whilst simultaneously trying to force compulsory redundancy on selected people. Reorganisations have taken place, which may have made improvements, but stress levels have risen and some people have been made visibly ill as a result of having no clear direction, management or reasonable accommodation in which to work.

Our attempts to get the University to carry out a stress survey have been documented elsewhere, but we’re not convinced that a failure to identity and deal with workplace stress is the actions of an inspirational leadership.

In short, the VC has taken steps to turn the University of Brighton into a higher education business with an emphasis on the paying student-customer always being right and the culture of Brighton – being prepared to be a bit different, forgotten, because we need to do what other universities are doing, because someone senior says so.

Whilst we don’t accept that league tables have anything to do with educational quality, by the standards set by the government, it’s fair to say that the University has not exactly improved.

If transforming the public service of higher education into degree-factories, openly competing with each other is the goal, then the VC has partially achieved the first steps, but for many people working here, this transformation is not inspired. It is the worst thing that could happen to a public service, as we’ve seen with NHS privatisation and outsourcing, linked to an obsession with big business being the solution to all our problems.

To be fair, it is true that Debra has made a real effort to promote the ideas of equality and diversity across the University and many people at Brighton are, quite correctly, pleased about that. However, genuine equality for all, means committing resources to making life easier for those with long-term illnesses, disabilities or caring responsibilities and we’re constantly being told that whilst the University will be sympathetic, when it comes to finances, there is nothing available to make life easier and consequently address inequality properly.

The VC has taken steps to address environmental issues, but as we’ve pointed out before, successive People and Planet Awards have shown the University to be hopelessly lacking in workers’ rights, scoring a derisory 10%, in part, as a result of the outright refusal to consider becoming a Living Wage Employer. In fact many lower grade staff, mostly women, have dropped below the real living wage of £8.75/hour.

So, we think that for the VC to be a truly inspirational leader, we’d like to see genuine change at the University. As a start…

  • Reducing the 37 hour working week
  • Equalising the annual leave – 35 days pro rata for all staff
  • Transferring casual staff (academic and support) to permanent jobs
  • Restoring Winter Holiday celebrations
  • Making moves to implement genuinely gold standard equalities policies
  • Introducing realistic wage restraint at the top to fund living wages at the bottom and becoming a Living Wage Employer

A happier, less stressed and valued workforce would undoubtably see a Vice Chancellor which committed to those things as inspirational.

March 29, 2018

International Women’s Day

It’s absolutely fantastic to see the University is celebrating International Women’s Day with their Women of Impact page, such incredible work by so many academic colleagues, and doubtless countless more not on the page!

What isn’t so great is the lack of even a nod in the direction of our amazing female support staff here at the University of Brighton. The women, without whom, the University of Brighton would cease to function.

I believe that we are ALL women of impact, no matter how ‘big’ or ‘small’ that impact is. Every morning when I come in to work, I say hello and have a little chat with our cleaners who are always so kind and happy that they get me off to a good start to the day. Every lunch time I share a joke with catering staff about my indecision on what to buy, and the inevitable choice of chips with beans in the end. Whenever I need help, caretaking, admin and technical colleagues are always there ready to assist and with a smile on their face. All of these amazing staff regularly impact my time here at the University of Brighton in a positive way.

So I am writing on behalf of UNISON to say a huge THANK YOU to ALL of our women of impact, and that is each and every one of you.

 

Emily Brooks

Equality and Diversity Coordinator

UNISON