UNISON Response to the University's reply of 06/01/06
Following a meeting between UNISON and NATFHE on Thursday, we have
sent the letter below to the VC.
NATFHE will be issuing a statement shortly.
We are arranging a joint meeting with UNISON and NATFHE full time
regional officers to progress a formal dispute with the University.
Option under consideration are;
A lobby of the Governors
Press and Media campaign
Industrial Action ballot
In response to the letter dated 5 January 2006 in answer to the " Grievance against Professor Simon Lee, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University ", UNISON would like to express their viewpoint, and our members should note the following:
- Paragraph 2 . The University Grievance procedure does not allow for any Grievance to be taken against the actions of the VC under any circumstance. We should like to know who the VC is answerable to and perhaps Steve Pashley will furnish us with an answer? Irrespective of the legalities of utilising the statutory grievance procedure, the Trade Unions have sought only to invoke the procedures as a means of achieving a reasonable discussion around the issues causing major concern for our members.
- Paragraph 3 . We have been refused any meeting through the established employment relations machinery and our members will be aware that allegations of bullying made by the media were as a direct result of the VC's "own comments". We leave members to draw their own conclusions as to the intent of Simon Lee's comments.
- Paragraph 4 . Irrespective of whether there is a breach of the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004, it is reasonable to expect that the Trade Unions as the recognised staff representatives, would be consulted, and involved in any prospective changes to the employment and contracts of our members. Where exactly, we wonder, does the VC see the staff and Trade Unions fitting in with his partnership schemes? Actions and statements to date are certainly not in accordance with the principles of partnership working.
- Paragraph 5 . UNISON is committed to participating in all reasonable attempts to resolve this dispute, however, this will not be at any price. Any dialogue entered into must be meaningful with predetermined outcomes.
Reply from the VC to the joint Trade Union grievance
UNISON and NATFHE received a response from the VC yesterday in response to the Joint Grievance submitted to the VC on Friday December 23 rd 2005.
The reply reads as follows:
Dear Messrs Hamilton and Spamer
I am writing in response to a document entitled "Grievance against Professor Simon Lee, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University" that was hand delivered to The Grange on Friday 23 December 2005 , signed by yourselves on behalf of the two recognised trade unions.
For your information, this document is not regarded by the University as a valid grievance as it fails to fall within the scope of the University's internal grievance procedure nor does it fall within the statutory grievance procedure. I will not, therefore, be taking action to progress it further.
I recognise that you regard the matters of leave during the staff development festival and graduation ceremonies as ones in which you are in dispute. These can and should be dealt with through the established employment relations machinery. However, as you know, I have declined to meet with you to discuss these matters until you either retract or disassociate yourselves from allegations of bullying on the part of the Vice-Chancellor that were made last year in connection with the staff development festival.
Also, for your information, the University is not in breach of the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (as these do not apply) or employment law more generally. I think that it is important to emphasise that staff employment contracts do entitle the University to specify its expectations around the taking of annual leave. Terms and conditions of employment have not been changed and they have always allowed for the University to require periods of maximum attendance. Furthermore, the University has not "imposed a blanket ban on annual leave" as your document states. Exceptional cases have been brought forward and have been authorised on an individual basis to take leave during these important University events. This will continue to be the case. As the University's actions are in accordance with existing contractual terms, there can be no issue of any failure to consult either the unions or individual members of staff.
To enable reasonable and meaningful dialogue to take place within the established joint machinery, I would ask you again to reflect on statements made by your trade unions and yourselves on behalf of local branches. I would hope that in doing this you would be able to create a situation wherein discussions can take place between us.
J S Pashley
Director of Human Resources
Members will note that the VC continues to refuse to discuss the issue of leave with the trade unions, unless, we either retract or disassociate ourselves from allegations of bullying on the part of the VC made in the media.
UNISON and NATFHE will be meeting on Thursday January 12th to consider his response in detail.
This branch of UNISON has always supported a commitment to the development of staff, for the benefit of staff themselves, students, and the University as a whole. We have campaigned to see a strong commitment from the University to promote development opportunities, career progression, Return to Learn and other significant initiatives.
However, such activity can not, and should not, be compulsory and it is wrong to attempt to ban all leave for a two week period for this purpose. Many managers have continued to follow the correct University procedures in looking at leave requests in a fair and equitable basis, and quite rightly granted leave during this period where appropriate. However, some managers have refused legitimate requests and it is disappointing that Human Resources have failed to advise those managers of the correct procedures.
We have taken up individual cases and to date, all have been resolved satisfactorily.
Those not wishing to participate in the festival have been seen as negative and questioned about their commitment to the University.
We have therefore to ask the question of those managers who have actually refused staff time to attend various Staff Development Festival events, what is their commitment to these vents, and why do they not value the commitment of some groups and/or individuals.
Another concern, is that if this is going to be a regular feature of the University calendar, just when will staff be able to take their well earned leave ?
Many faculties already try and impose restrictions on leave around exam periods, the graduation ceremony, recruitment periods, student inductions etc.
We will be raising this whole issue at every opportunity, including with staff governors on the Board of Governors.