Remember when Coventry University were in the papers for sacking a group of English pre-sessional teachers – employed by a ‘wholly-owned subsidiary’ of the University CU Services – for exercising their legal right to collective representation by UCU? Well, they are at it again – union busting that is – this time at CU Coventry.
On 8 March, UCU officials met with the CEO John Dishman and the head of University HR Magi Hoppitt who revealed that the Group had registered its Staff Consultative Group as a trade union and signed a recognition agreement with it.
The Staff Group is not an independent union. It’s a company union, set up and controlled by management.
The Group has very few members and those staff who did participate had no idea that it had been registered as a union and were stunned to learn this. Several have since resigned in disgust.
Although the Staff Group is not an independent union, a loophole in trade union law means that it is impossible for UCU to lodge an application for statutory recognition.
UCU is in no doubt that this was a deliberate, cynical and planned manoeuvre to exploit the law to deny staff their expressed will and cut off their legal right to a union.
CU Group board meeting minutes from March 2016 show that the Group considered this measure as a possible way of preventing the union from applying for recognition. (see the minutes here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/9306/CUC-TU-recognition/pdf/CUCTUrecognition )
The Group was advised in this by the University’s own HR department. This is a shocking and disgusting way for a university employer to behave. Such antics bring shame upon the CU Group and its owner Coventry University and should be an embarrassment to the forthcoming City of Culture.
Since UCU found out about Coventry University’s latest act of union busting – which it had to tell members in CU Coventry about, by the way – we have been waging a highly effective public campaign to put pressure on the employer to reverse the decision.
Firstly, we launched a petition, which now has just under 10,000 signatures from UCU members, academics and sympathetic citizens across the UK and even abroad.
Secondly, we lobbied local politicians, political organisations and trade unions to write to the vice chancellor, John Latham, to reverse this decision, de-recognise the sham union and recognise UCU instead.
You can follow the letters to the VC, as well as messages of solidarity on the UCU website as they come in
Jim Cunningham, MP for Coventry South has publicly condemned the actions of the University, revealing that he has written to the VC and commenting that the “approach taken [by Coventry University] shows a worrying disregard for the wishes of CUG staff and their right to meaningful collective bargaining on the issues of concern”.
“I believe, as The Labour Party always has, that strong trade union representation is tremendously important,” he adds. “I am proud of the link between trade unions and the Labour Party. I have urged the University to change its course, reconsider this approach and agree to an appropriate recognition agreement with the University and College Union (UCU) in accordance with the wishes of staff.”
The Coventry Observer has also been enthusiastically covering the story (see here and here), and we are hoping that other local and national media outlets will pick the story up as the campaign builds.
Coventry UCU has now also called two national demonstrations (see leaflets here). If you would like printed copies to distribute, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 18 April – Solidarity protest and rally, 1pm. Assemble outside Graham Sutherland Building, Cox Street, Coventry CV1 5PH
Wednesday 16 May – March and demonstration to lobby the University Board of Governors. Details tbc.
What can you do?
Model branch motion:
[please ensure that you send a copy of your letter to UCU at email@example.com so that we can post it on the solidarity wall]
This branch condemns Coventry University for its role in promoting union busting in its subsidiary company ‘CU Group’.
Staff in CU Group have been clear that they want UCU to represent them for collective bargaining yet the University and the company management have attempted to frustrate their will by secretly registering their Staff Consultative Group as ‘union’ and signing a recognition agreement with it.
The SCG is a sham union. It is not independent, it’s been set up and run by management and it has no support from staff.
We note that UCU has called a national campaign in support of members at CU Group aimed at securing a proper recognition agreement with UCU, sanctioning the use of ‘all possible measures’.
This branch resolves to support the national campaign in any way possible, including:
[Please ensure that you send a copy of your letter to UCU at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can post it on the solidarity wall]
Email to: John.email@example.com
Dear Professor Latham,
On behalf of UCU at — I am writing to protest at the outrageous actions of the CU Group’s management in setting up and recognising a sham union. We believe that this legal manoeuvre was a transparent attempt to frustrate the will of staff who have demonstrated that they wish to have UCU recognised to negotiate for them.
The actions of the company’s management are disgraceful enough but it appears to have been taken under the advice of the University’s senior management.
Coventry University is gaining a reputation as an anti-union pariah institution in the UK higher education sector and we believe that its actions reflect very badly on the sector as a whole.
We are calling on the CU Group to de-recognise its fake union and recognise UCU for the purposes of collective bargaining across the Group immediately.
In the meantime, our branch will offer all possible solidarity to our members in the CU Group, including supporting any actions that they call for in relation to Coventry University.
I look forward to your response.