Thanks to everyone who made it to our Emergency General Meeting yesterday. It was great to see so many people attend at such short notice and we think it shows the strength of feeling of our branch members in relation our dispute over One World Nursery.
After three dispute meetings with the University’s management, we have tried to discuss the wisdom of the decision to close the Nursery, to save an annual subsidy of around £83,000. We have asked why all alternative proposals have been brushed aside, include our own suggestion that the Nursery could shrink, with fewer children and staff and a much reduced provision, but one that still retained the ability to offer the services of childcare and early-years education at the University.
Our proposal was considered to be not serious, even though it would halve the deficit. In rejecting our proposal without discussion, the University have shifted the emphasis from saving £83,000 to saving half that – a figure so ridiculously small within the context of £197 million spent each year, that it’s utterly ridiculous that we’re arguing about it, were it not for the fact that eleven of our members stand to be made redundant.
All our objections to the closure have been met with the response that £83,000 is a lot of money and it needs to be saved. The “consultation” has been on ways to “mitigate the redundancies”, which the decision, “already made”, is responsible for creating. It’s like punching yourself in the face and then debating for a month which A&E to attend.
The University have offered to calculate redundancy payments so that they’re not discriminating (illegally in our view) between part-time workers and denying recent years of service. They have offered to let people go early (quite convenient when they’re campaigning for their jobs) and provide counselling and training for a longer period than their employment. These are all things that we’d like to see in place anyway, and they would cost virtually nothing, but they are all based on One World closing.
To continue the analogy above, they’ve offered an additional plaster for the face-punching incident, as long as we stop arguing about the wisdom of the punch.
When our members have overwhelmingly voted in our consultation in favour of taking action to oppose redundancies and in favour of taking action to oppose the closure of One World, we have to press on with our postal ballot. We can’t resolve the dispute over closure and redundancies by minor concessions to redundancy terms, made to drive a wedge between the nursery workers and the rest of our branch.
All eleven nursery workers have campaigned to keep One World open. They have shown courage and dignity in this when it would have been much be easier to keep quiet, take the redundancy and try to find another job.
We have said all along that we are prepared to compromise. Our alternative proposal did involve a major concession involving some of the nursery workers leaving voluntarily, to halve the subsidy to the Nursery, but there has been no compromise from the University leadership, who insist on arguing that a decision has been made, (by eight people in a meeting, one of whom is now leaving).
It’s worth remembering that every member of UEB is arguing, perhaps because they’ve been told to and presumably with a straight face, that all this turmoil and loss of eleven livelihoods is worth it, because £83,000 is such a massive amount of money, when they’re all paid much more than that as a basic salary. Each UEB member therefore requires a subsidy in excess of one Nursery. Some several times that. (Total cost of UEB 2019/20: £1.23 million, or 15 nurseries.)
We still can’t find anyone who thinks the closure is a good idea or makes financial sense. If a handful of students apply elsewhere in the future because there’s no nursery, the saving made will turn into a cost. It’s a financially inept decision which you don’t need to be an accountant to understand.
We will no doubt be accused of causing trouble and destroying the University when it needs to recruit students. Other than the fiasco of closing Hastings campus (and throwing away over £6 million of annual fee income), we can’t think of a more destructive plan than this. UEB are provoking a potential strike, over a falsely constructed argument of the One World subsidy being significant, just to prove who’s in charge.
It’s the students and those of us who do the work here which make the University of Brighton, and we will demonstrate that our members think that UEB is making a terrible error in their determination to close One World.
We’re still very happy to discuss alternative ways in which we can retain a nursery provision at the University, but we owe it to all our members to ballot for industrial action if UEB remain as obstinate as they have been so far.
None of us want to go on strike, but none of us want to see UEB get away with such a ridiculous and unnecessary act of vandalism.
Our postal ballot opens on Friday 28th May and all votes have to be posted back (in the envelope provided) to be received by 10am on 17th June. If you’re a member of UNISON working directly for the University, you will get a ballot paper, so please make sure you vote YES for strike action.