Saturday, 4 April 2009

Detailed statement from unions


As you know, UCU and UNISON negotiators have been meeting management regularly in an attempt to avoid redundancies. Unfortunately, so far we cannot report significant progress. The key areas of disagreement remain:

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1 – Budget
Management refuses to consider using part of our capital receipts (in excess of £30m) to fund a short-term deficit budget that will avoid the need for premature redundancies while we collectively devise a real recovery plan..

2 – Workloads
We have not yet agreed a workload Issues This is crucial to ensure that staff who do not leave are not overwhelmed with extra work and that departments can continue to function properly.

3 – Timing of voluntary redundancy scheme
Management appears unwilling to accept that it makes little sense to open a voluntary redundancy scheme in the middle of formal talks that are aimed at minimising the need for redundancies. This is not an abstract argument. If, and when, a voluntary redundancy (VR) scheme is launched, there needs to be clear agreement on how many volunteers are required, which areas those volunteers will be accepted from, and the funding available to support the scheme. We also need to be assured that those refused VR would not then be eligible for compulsory redundancy. Although management have made some concessions, we still have no agreement on the scale of the problem or confidence in the strategy for minimising job losses of which a VR scheme would be part.

4 – Compulsory redundancies
Management refuses to withdraw the threat to initiate compulsory redundancy notices this academic year, nor will they undertake not to initiate a round of compulsory redundancies as soon as the VR scheme is completed. We fear that management's desire to rush into a VR scheme before the end of the 90-day consultation is to ensure that they can immediately launch into compulsory redundancies when those consultations finish in May.

As a union we have a duty to protect all our members’ jobs and conditions of service. So far we have ensured that management are consulting us. We have pointed out numerous savings and alternatives to job losses. None have been taken seriously by the management. We have discussed London Met’s problems with HEFCE and with politicians. It is clear that there are ways of dealing with the financial mess management created without threatening the future of the university. Our campaign enjoys a great deal of sympathy at all levels. Yet management is still insisting on cutting one in four jobs at London Met!

Now is the time to display our collective resolve. Our negotiators need a mandate should management continue to refuse to take these consultations seriously. So unless there is significant movement in the near future, we will be balloting for industrial action. In this we will be moving forward with our UCU colleagues who have voted to ballot for industrial action too. A ballot will give us an opportunity to tell management what we think of their threats. It allows us the voice we have so far been denied in the future of London Met.

We still hope that sense will prevail. Voting for action does not necessarily mean we will actually need to take it. We believe that a demonstration of our determination will encourage management to be more reasonable in negotiations. However, it will also put us all in a position to resist forced job losses should they not drop their current intransigence.

If we are forced into a position where industrial action is the only choice left, we will need to think carefully about what form it will take. Our aim is not to disrupt exams or to hurt the students. Their support has been – and remains - a powerful weapon in our fight to save the university. Therefore before we take action, the Branch Executive Committee will consult the membership, the students and our sister union. We will all work together to save London Metropolitan.

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