Tag Archives: GCU Management

GCU Green league success – Trade Union welcomes invite to be involved

People and planet logo2

The latest roll call of environmental achievement from the People and Planet Green League shows another impressive leap for our university – which the hard work of our staff should take credit for.

Glasgow Caledonian has increased its position in this table from 59th to 46th – following on from a previous increase the year before. Latest figures show us having achieved 41 points out of 70 on a wide ranging set of issues from our approach to fair trade, to whether we have a carbon management plan.

Unlike the NSS plans which are methodologically unsound and essentially a ‘lose-lose’ approach, the People and Planet league is robustly constructed and something we should strive to do well in.

Crucially one of the key indicators for the People and Planet is staff involvement, specifically Trade Union consultation on environmental plans. We wrongly reported on June 13th that the University had not invited information from the Trade Unions regarding this. In fact for the first time we had been contacted, but due to a mix-up (on our side) the meeting did not take place.  So we apologise for the original mis-reporting.

We’re pleased to say that we have now again been invited to talk about the University’s environmental approach and plans – something we welcome, and look forward to reporting on the discussions here positively.

We have long argued that full involvement of  Trade Unions in all aspects of university life is the best way of guaranteeing ‘buy-in’ and of constructing an approach fully reflective of the full university community.

Local UCU officer elected as UCU Scotland Vice President

The UCU intends to broaden its work over the coming period

The UCU – hoping to work on an increasing range of interests and concern for their members

Douglas Chalmers, local President of the UCU@GCU announced he felt honoured to be elected as Scottish vice president of the UCU in their current elections. Receiving almost twice as many votes as his opponent in the election, Douglas said “The union in Scotland and in the rest of the UK, faces some difficult times ahead, but there’s never been a need for a stronger UCU, due to the increase in managerialism in our universities.

We have a real vision for transforming Higher Education in Scotland, and are determined to do this – working with our sister unions to ensure a positive future for all in the sector. Our branch is working on an increasing range of issues of interest and concern for our members and looks forward to broadening our work over the next period at GCU. If I was asked for a theme for our work in the near future its going to be –  The UCU, it’s not ‘Business as usual.’

Withholding pay – GCU Management steps back from the brink – but needs to go further

Unions at GCU welcomed the ‘clarification’ statement released by HR following our protestation at the proposal to withhold wages from staff involved in action short of a strike.

Following our protests and communication with HR, all staff have now had the university’s new position outlined as follows:

“Dear Colleagues

EIS has now clarified the nature of the proposed action short of a strike – information we didn’t have when I wrote to colleagues earlier this week. The University doesn’t consider that any of the action advocated by EIS in its most recent communication to the University would cause the University to invoke its policy of withholding pay for partial performance.  I hope this clarifies the position but do please contact your HR BP if you have any queries”.

All very welcome, and well as it goes perhaps, but reference to the university’s ‘policy of withholding pay for partial performance’ sounds to the impartial reader like an implicit threat held in reserve.  Our staff don’t ‘partially perform’ – they over perform, in increasingly difficult circumstances. The staff survey showed just how committed our staff are to the future of the university – and, indeed also indicated where it was felt that partial performance was really being carried out – confidence in the performance of Senior Management (even amongst Senior Management) was very low.

Our management need to look at how to better invest in the staff who are keeping this university going – and keeping it up in the esteem it is held in, in Scotland. We need a positive approach from our management in support of staff aspirations on wages and pensions.

Dr Nick McKerrell, Convenor of the EIS/ULA at GCU, said “EIS members welcome the clarification of management’s position at GCU.  It is a shame that they rushed in using bullying language rather than waiting to see what our industrial action consisted of.  However members have to be vigilant in their campaign for fair pay for all in Higher Education to make sure that GCU will not resurrect these threats as the industrial action continues”

Unions condemn return to heavy handed tactics by management at Glasgow Caledonian University

Glasgow Caledonian University unions today condemned the re-appearance of heavy handed tactics by management which threaten to return labour relations to rock bottom once more at the university.

Following the one day strike by EIS members on 23rd October, staff were shocked to receive the following e-mail –  sent to all staff – from the head of HR:

“Dear Colleagues

Further to the communication last week regarding the EIS strike action of the 23rd, we have also received notification that EIS intends to take industrial action short of a strike from 24 October 2012.  Action short of a strike will be interpreted as partial performance under the terms of an employee’s contract. The University does not accept partial performance and will deduct 100% of a person’s pay for each working day that staff participate in partial performance of duties. The withholding of pay is without prejudice to any right or remedy of the University, including any claim for damages for breach of contract.

You should note that, if an employee chooses to continue to perform some of their duties, this does not mean that the University has accepted partial performance – this partial performance is voluntary and will not be paid for”.

It’s the view of the combined unions that this language and approach is more reminiscent of workhouse labour relations, than the modern, forward looking university that the staff at Glasgow Caledonian wish it to be. Quite frankly we are also astonished that in the wake of the dissatisfaction expressed in last year’s staff survey this heavy handed approach is again being adopted in the month before the next Pulse survey is launched, and also when the university is quite rightly receiving media accolades following the appointment of our new Chancellor.

The unions are considering their response to this unwelcome development which sends out all the wrong signals to hard working staff whose living standards have declined over the last five years. We do not believe that it represents an acceptable ‘peoples’ strategy’. We would like this dictat withdrawn.

Glasgow Caledonian Unions welcome management change of heart over student resit ‘fines’

The announcement today that GCU management have withdrawn plans to ‘fine’ students for resits and retaking modules was today welcomed by GCU unions. Speaking on behalf of the University and College Union, branch president Douglas Chalmers said: “We welcome this step back by management on the issue. This really would have hit hard those who already find it hard to finance a university career – exactly the students who the university has a proud record of aiming to help.”

Earlier this month a joint statement of support had gone to the Students Association from both the UCU and EIS, pledging support for the students’ campaign in this area, and Douglas had addressed the Student Parliament to add the support of the combined unions at GCU.

We believe the original proposals were ill conceived” said Douglas, “it appeared that there had been no equality impact assessment done, and in this case, no real consideration given as to how the university carries out its remit to ‘improve the Common Weal’ – something the unions have always supported. In this light, we also welcome the pledge made to the Student Association president from the university secretary Jan Hulme today, that  ‘support available to students who face hardship in the course of their study could usefully be more clearly flagged, and [that]the Student Funding Team will be tasked with looking at that’.

We also welcome the pledge from Ms Hulme that the signposting of provision for students who need additional learning support will similarly be reviewed so that students undertaking resits or retaking modules are reminded of the range of support they can call upon”

In a message to the University Unions, Student Association President Matte Andrews said: “On behalf of the Students’ Association and the student population, I would like to extend a massive thank you for all your support over the last month and I hope that this is the beginning of a pro-active relationship with the Students’ Association campaigning alongside the Unions“.

Academic Unions at GCU call for a re-think on re-sit ‘fines’

Students launch petition calling for re-sit fines to be withdrawn

The GCU branches of the University and College Union (UCU) and the Educational Institute for Scotland (EIS) both called today for the senior management at Glasgow Caledonian University to reconsider their decision to fine students, who need to undertake re-sits of exams or of modules.

From the coming semester, students re-sitting exams will now have to pay £40, and the increased cost of re-sitting a module will rocket ten-fold, from £30 to £300.

Said Douglas Chalmers UCU president at Glasgow Caledonian:
“The unions at Glasgow Caledonian are extremely proud of the university’s  wider access approach which leads to many more students being able to access HE education than would have been the case previously. We fear this new approach however, will set this mission back, and will hit students from disadvantaged families – making it yet another problem for them to overcome. We also have grave concerns how this may impact on students with disabilities or illnesses during term time. We are therefore fully in support of the campaign by the local students union against what they call the ‘re-sit rip-off’ and will be raising our views with senior management in order to seek a more appropriate approach to dealing with students’ academic difficulties”.

The unions also announced they had sent an appropriate message (see here) to the local students forum pledging their support for their campaign, and urge full support for their campaign – highlighted on their website here.

A small step for court perhaps ….. but GCU needs a giant leap

It’s far too early to tell, but the recent executive briefing by chair of court Tony Brian (see posting below) may be a helpful acknowledgment that things need improved in the governance of the university.   However, it was really too difficult to be certain, given this was a ‘briefing’ with the parameters set in a way that precluded any real debate on what has been clearly incompetent management by our university’s executive over a substantial number of years.
The staff survey clearly shows what the staff think and the unions have made their points on this so  we don’t want to belabour the points again here (though we are intent on achieving their resolution).

In passing however it needs to be noted that the totally disrespectful way it has been treated in The Caledonian magazine would be laughable if it wasn’t so disgraceful.

If court wants to see what is wrong in GCU in microcosm, they should consider the raw results as published, and then look at the spin put on them in this publication.

How to take the issues forward?

Firstly we believe there is a logical inconsistency in arguing (as the chair of court did), that changes need to be evidence based, and then arguing (as the university secretary did)  that the people who could provide exactly the evidence needed – the unions at GCU – are somehow out of the loop of discussions with court. This is complacency at its worst, and threatens to devalue any claim of the court that they are looking at GCU’s serious situation, in a serious manner.
Of course there are many stakeholders in the University… so we say why not speak to them all. Limiting yourself to the assertions of a group who less than one in 5 of our staff trust, is not serious governance and won’t be seen as such by the Scottish community. People including the press, are aware of what has been happening here and the general expectation in the Scottish community that meaningful change needs now to  happen at GCU should not be under estimated.

Some additional issues were raised where further dialogue is also needed. What is the role of staff governors? Do they ‘represent’ or just ‘voice’ views? The staff governors themselves are aware of the contradictions of their positions. This needs looked at.

According to the university secretary, the disappearance of the court minutes from the university web site, seemed ‘inadvertent’ and possibly linked to resourcing. We welcome that and look forward to their re-appearance, plus their availability in formats which are accessible to disabled members of our community.

Finally we were interested to see that there will be ‘external input’ into a review of the effectiveness of court. Whether or not  court will have the courage to publish the outcome of such a review (apparently under discussion), will be emblematic of whether the GCU is moving on from a ‘closed shop’ approach, to that of open governance.

Independent review calls for shake up of university governance

An independent review of Higher Education Governance in Scotland today called for fundamental change in the way universities are governed.

Amongst its recommendations:

  • Governing bodies need to better show that they observe principles of good governance, regularly reviewing their own performance.
  • Meetings of University Court should normally be held in public.
  • There should be representatives of academic unions and of support staff unions on University Court (in addition to directly elected staff members)
  • At least forty percent of the Court membership should be female, and membership should also reflect principles of equality and diversity more generally.
  • Senior managers other than the Principal should not be Court members, nor attend unless for specific agenda items where their attendance is deemed necessary.
  • Chairs of Court (which should now be an elected post) should work closely with Principals, but be independent of them.
  • University Principals’ performance should be appraised by external governing body members, staff and students. Their method of appointment should be reformed.
  • Remuneration committees should include staff and student members.

The panel looking into change also recommended that the role of trade unions in university governance should be enhanced.

The report (copy here) has already been welcomed by university unions. We expect that it should be welcomed by our University Court in the interest of good governance.

University unions would welcome a real discussion with representatives of the Court on this document as well as on the shocking revelations of the staff survey. This should of course be of a more serious nature than ‘staff listening’ events – which it appears even the Principal’s office is now recognising do not work.

We have also written to Principal Gillies’ representative asking that the Principal attend meetings of the Joint Consultative Committee (as was standard practice with previous Principals). We will report back on her response to your staff representatives.

Scottish Press reports criticism of Senior Management at GCU

A hard hitting article by the Herald’s Education reporter Andrew Denholm has brought the shocking results of the recent GCU staff survey into the public’s gaze.

Stating that “A survey of staff at Glasgow Caledonian University  found just 19% said principal Professor Pamela Gillies and her management ‘lead the university well’ “, Denholm’s report goes on to outline the devastating statistics which have emerged from the management-initiated survey.

Within the article,  Dr Nick McKerral, convener of the university’s combined union committee expresses the point that “although they are obviously committee to their job within the public service of higher education, the figures show that ordinary staff feel ignored by highly paid senior management who have carried through many controversial plans, including attempting to make 95 compulsory redundancies last year”.

Nick is also quoted as saying  “The unions on campus will be requesting a meeting with Court, the governing body of the university, to ask what they plan to do about the failures of GCU management reflected in the survey.”

Denholm goes on to report that “Prof  Gillies who earns £211,000, pointed to many positives within the survey in an e-mail to the staff. She said the survey results show that staff are generally positive about the university, with 92% saying they are interested in the university and it is more than just a job.”

The full report can be found here on the Herald’s website, and on this blog’s Media Coverage page.

GCU Court needs to act NOW on shocking findings of Staff Survey

Fact. The GCU Trade Unions were not consulted about the contents of the survey nor questions within it.

Fact. The survey was issued after a long period of senior management  minimising real consultation with the unions at GCU.

Fact. The result of the survey is a damning indictment of long term inept management at the university which is clearly linked to the practice of ignoring the views of staff and their elected representatives.

If this was the business community, boardroom changes would have taken place long before now.

Fact. It is about time University Court did something about this and proved they act in the interest of the university community, its staff, the students who we serve, and the Scottish people who deserve more from a publicly funded and top class higher education establishment.

How the staff feel:
While 84% feel valued by colleagues, only 34% feel valued by the University.
Staff feel proud of what they do but despair at how they are treated

Only 19% agree that senior management manages and leads the university well.

Only 14% agree to any extent that senior management listens to and responds to the views of front line staff.

Only 43% – less than half – of senior management agree to any extent that they themselves set out a clear vision of where the university is headed.

This can only be described as an abject failure of leadership.

Perhaps this is reflected in the fact that a higher proportion of senior management (21%) than staff across the board (19%) are actively seeking to leave the university. Lets hope that this 21% includes the 7% of senior management that isn’t particularly interested in the university – it’s just a job!

The chaotic process that was restructuring
Very few staff agree to any extent that the changes brought about by restructuring were ‘about right’ (17%), ‘well planned’ (19%) ‘well explained’ (28%) or ‘managed well’ (22%).

Even senior management wouldn’t admit to the effective planning (29%), explanation (36%), or managing (36%) of change.

Fact: Senior management admit they are not doing their job effectively.

In spite of these fundamental issues of concern, 71% of staff agree to some extent that they feel inspired to do their best work every day. Most (70%) still think that GCU is a good place to work and 85% do claim to enjoy their work.

What the staff opinion survey shows is that GCU can celebrate its staff – but not its leadership.

Any inaction on these statistics would discredit  GCU Court as much as senior management seem discredited in the opinions freely given by university staff, – union and non-union members – alike.

For more information on GCU governance see our blog page here