Tag Archives: Nick McKerrell

Balloons and bacon rolls keep spirits high on GCU picket line

Helium filled balloons supplied by UCU and bacon filled rolls supplied by Unison helped make the joint picket by university unions UCU, EIS, Unison and Unite on 6th February the most successful yet in the series of actions in favour of Fair Pay at Glasgow Caledonian.
In some ways this was the best organised of the actions so far, with posters informing the students of impending action having been put up on previous days, and a specially prepared leaflet featuring an appeal from each union given out to students on the day.

United for Fair Pay

United for Fair Pay

Determined to win our action

Determined to win our action

Union reps indicated more reports of alterations to and cancellations of classes than had happened at previous actions.
Even the worst of the weather stayed off, although spectacularly, mid way through the picket, the wind put an end to the gazebo which had played such a helpful role in the previous disputes!
Pickets were out on all of the main entrances to the university with several delivery vans turning away after reading our leaflet, and many passing cars honking their approval of the action.

Applause for a particularly witty point

Applause for a particularly witty point

At a brief rally at 10.45 chaired by joint Union Convenor and EIS rep Nick McKerrell, Sinead Wylie brought the greetings and support of the Students Association, followed by Unison rep Davena Rankin and UCU rep Douglas Chalmers who spoke on behalf of their unions. Nick McKerrell closed the rally, pointing out that this had been a great example of the type of joint activity that the four unions at Glasgow Caledonian continued to do together very well.
Following the rally, 100 of the helium balloons were released on a count of three to cheering before we dispersed, having shown once again the depth of feeling amongst staff that GCU should pressurise UCEA to come back to the negotiating table.

Sinead from the students association nearly carried away

Sinead from the students association nearly carried away

PS the joint unions have already been offered another 3 gazebos to take the place of the one that lost its battle with the Glasgow weather.

GCU unions out in force on strike day December 3rd

The library, along with other departments and classes were affected

The library, along with other departments and classes were affected

Representatives of Glasgow Caledonian trade unions UCU, Unison, EIS and Unite expressed themselves as extremely heartened by the support they received from staff   on 3rd December following the failure of the UK university managements to seriously negotiate a realistic wages offer with university staff.

Having leafleted GCU students the previous day asking for support for the staff action, which was then translated into a clear drop in student attendance on the 3rd, they also received a message of support from the GCU Students Association, which was backing up a earlier on-line survey of students which had also come out in favour of the planned action. Two of the Student Association officers also attended  the Edinburgh rally held on the day of the strike.

A leaflet was issued the day before the action, asking for student support

A leaflet was issued the day before the action, asking for student support

Representing UCU Scotland at the lunchtime rally in Adelaide’s  in Bath Street,  local GCU president Douglas Chalmers called for the university management side to take their responsibility seriously and help create a properly resourced Higher Education sector where staff were treated in a professional manner, and students could be secure in knowing that they would be receiving a proper, well funded education.

Also speaking at the rally were Nick McKerrall President of EIS (also incidentally from GCU), and Unison Executive representative Davena Rankin – making up a triumvirate from Glasgow Caledonian, amongst the 5 strong speakers, with Gordon Casey from Unite and Ian Trushell bringing support from the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

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”

Why we are striking at GCU – EIS

Nick McKerrel: “Our strike on Tuesday is about fair pay in Higher Education”

ON Tuesday 23rd October, Members of the EIS employed in Higher Education will be striking. At the request of the Caledonianunion blog, Dr Nick McKerrell  Convenor of the Combined Unions at Caledonian and the EIS branch sent a message to all staff at GCU:

Our strike on Tuesday is about fair pay in Higher Education.  Over the last four years staff have accepted meagre increases recognising the economic situation that we all find ourselves in (although not because of anything we have done).  These sub-inflation pay offers  has meant that staff have taken pay cuts of around 12% : for a lecturer at the top of the scale that amounts to a loss of £5000!”

“Meanwhile senior University Management across the sector have pocketed inflation busting bonuses and continue to jet around the world.   Research released by the EIS this week shows that Scottish University have millions in reserve but will not put a decent offer for pay on the table for staff.”

“The STUC’s campaign against cuts in public spending states there is a better way – never has that phrase been more true for Higher Education and recognising the contribution of ordinary staff”

There will be a picket line at the main gates from 8am.  Although all the other unions at GCU are in dispute over pay they are not taking strike action at the moment.  But the  local EIS  branch would like to invite fellow union members to come along to a lunchtime rally at the main gates of the University at 12 noon.

Use your lunch hour time to come along to the rally and show your support for striking colleagues – they will be really happy to see you.

All the best

Nick

Dr Nick McKerrell

Convenor of Glasgow Caledonian Combined Union Committee and EIS/ULA branch.

EIS Strike Day
Tuesday March 23rd
Lunchtime Rally at Cally Gates
12 noon
Show support and solidarity.
Fair Pay for All H.E. Staff.
Speakers from all the main unions at GCU

GCU Court talks to (some) GCU staff – a welcome, but very small step

Tony Brian - newly elected chair of GCU Court - first meeting with staff

Some faltering steps which might lead to a more meaningful dialogue between GCU Court and university staff were taken when recently elected Court chair Tony Brian led an ‘Executive Briefing’ on ‘Governance and the role of Court at GCU’.

The organisation of the meeting left something to be desired, with only three working days notice being given to staff and the original time of the meeting clashing with teaching time – something resolved when Court Office were reminded what teaching hours were at the university. The final room chosen turned out to be too small for those present to be seated comfortably in but this did not prevent a first airing of views on some issues.

Disappointingly, the parameters on discussion were narrowly set by Tony to preclude any discussion on ‘revisiting decisions which may or may not have been made by court’ or ‘anticipating decisions that may or may not be made by court’. While quite happy to talk about governance around a decision, he did not think we should be ‘revisiting specific decisions’.

Quoting the Governance review panel definition of Governance as:

‘Effective Stewardship to secure sustainability’; safeguarding the mission and services to the public; the proper use of public and other funds; and ensuring stakeholder participation and accounting for institutional performance’ he suggested:

“Good governance if you break it down to its absolute essence is quite simply decision making and oversight by the right people with the right information at the right time”.

“It has the responsibility of offering constructive but robust challenge to the executive, and guidance, and the whole purpose of that is to hold the executive to account and improve decision making”. “Robust challenge is what makes the difference in decisions making in my view. We must have that for people to reach the right decisions”

Although the Court did not discuss the Governance report till the following week, he reported that the Committee of Scottish Chairs, were against moving to the election of chairs, feeling it could introduce a conflict of interest.

“The chair has the responsibility to act impartially across all of the university and all of the Stakeholders….. Many other people have stakes in the Universities – people funding universities, public or private; local communities, businesses who use our services; public services that use our services, the third sector that use our services”.

He went on to say that he felt any change needed to be evidence based.

In contributions from the floor, it was pointed out that the report recommended an enhanced role for the Trade Unions in university governance, and it was therefore suggested there should be a meeting with representatives of Trade Unions to look at issues of mutual concern.

Tony’s view was that its was too early to say – he hadn’t had a chance to talk to court about this at all and didn’t know what court’s views were on any of these issues, bar the election of the chair, and therefore would have to go through that process.
A direct answer was that he couldn’t comment as he simply didn’t know what courts’ view was. “I couldn’t say yes or no to that at the moment – I would have to see how things evolve.”

Jan Hulme - Staff representatives on court already play a full part.....

He suggested Jan Hulme was the point of contact for all governance issues and if there was a request made it should be made to her.

On this point the university secretary suggested that the issue was really about the mechanisms that were already in place for the unions to engage with the university, which was the JCC… She acknowledged there were discussions and there would be future discussions about how well that operates, and how it can be made to operate better, but at present it was the formal and court approved mechanism for the university to engage with the unions on campus. Anything else would be unusual, atypical and there was not a process for that. So she thought the short answer was that there wasn’t a means for doing that.

She also raised the fact that there were staff representatives on the court, who play a full and active part in the court as well. So to that extent too, the court was informed about staff views, staff perspectives as well. If it was suggested there should be another mechanism then that opened up a whole other discussion and debate that would have to be reviewed. ….  “we might want to pause and reflect before we invented any other piece of machinery.”

A discussion then ensued about the role of staff governors, and what part they played in relaying staff concerns to the court, and whether they represented the people that elected them.

According to the chair of court they gave court their view of staff feelings, views, whatsoever “and we listen to that”.

There were then some points of view given by individual staff members of court including the difficulties they had – being ‘unable to canvass views’ beforehand as court business was confidential, but hoping that they still put over a range of staff views:  “if there’s a decision to be taken on court, I see my role as judging what the academic members of staff would think of that, and then convey it…. It’s not a fully representative role”

One suggestion was that ‘representative’ was perhaps not the correct term, but a better one might be ‘voice’ of staff.

At this point the university secretary argued that responsibility as charity trustees meant that “people have to step back from whatever constituency they feel they know best and who might have elected them and they have to put on the hat of the collective good of the university, weigh things up, on balance and act actually as part of the corporate body.”  To that extent it was not like being a trade union representative who can say straightforwardly ‘this is what my members believe…..’  It was a role that demanded skill and experience, and she believed court were well served.

Brian Pillans: "Staff reps are not accountable to their constituency..."

Brian Pillans, talking for the UCU said the terminology was a problem – ‘staff reps were not accountable to their constituency…..’

Nick McKerral, joint union convener turned to the three pronged structure of governance previously outlined by Tony and suggested there was a clear benchmark of respect for senior staff to be found in the recent staff survey. The Executive had an approval rating of 18% and in some schools it fell to 8% which meant Nick Clegg has a higher rating in Scotland.

Nick McKerrell: "NIck Clegg has a better approval rating in Scotland, than our senior management.."

It was obviously very worrying that such a big prong of university management is held in such scepticism by staff of the university. Turning to the role of court and the fact they had been in discussions with the executive over the decisions that they have made over the last 5 years in the university, NIck asked that given this fact, did the chair of court think court was a successful body just now and that it had done its job well over the last 5 years?

Tony declined to talk about the staff survey as it would be dealt with the following week but suggested Governance had been working well…….. “if you look at the sector as a whole, the HE sector in Scotland is one of the most successful sectors we have…..”

Governance had played a significant role in the successes of the sector. He also stressed that any changes should only be made where there was evidence that they will improve things. “I’m not closed to changes, but they have to be evidence based improvements”. On being pushed on whether he thought governance was working at GCU, he believed “it absolutely was”.

It then being suggested by Brian Pillans that this answer was something that would have been said by the banks 6 or 7 years ago, and perhaps the complacency on the part of the governance of the banks had seen them go where they had, Tony conceded that it didn’t necessarily mean that in the new world what had happened in the past would be adequate. It was one of the things they had to look at – “is governance today sufficient for what we will have tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”. He didn’t want to say that what we had today was perfect, but things needed to be evidence based – ‘there was no point in doing things that will make it worse’.

The question of scrutiny and transparency was raised from the body of the meeting when it was pointed out that the minutes of the court meetings were no longer available to the public – they had been taken off the university website. The question was asked how people were to find out what court was deciding? Court regulations of lodging one copy in the library was totally inadequate – and particularly questionable in terms of disabled access. The question was raised why this decision had been taken.

On this the chair confessed he hadn’t been involved at the time and handed the question to the university secretary who first suggested the decision had predated her, but when it was pointed out this wasn’t correct, suggested that it was possibly inadvertent – a point welcomed in the meeting.

She also suggested that she didn’t think the court web presence was as good as it should be or as informative, or as helpful and that as much as anything it had been a resourcing issue.

She continued to say that it was something that she really thought had to take priority now. Colleagues in the Court office would agree that it was very much a priority – that it was high on the agenda, and very much part of the work plan that they were doing. So she hoped this would address some of the issued that existed.

“The fundamental point as to how court communicates its work is a very fair one, that I think we’d recognise and one we’d very much like to address”.
Tony Brian also agreed it was something that should be looked at.

One of the two last issues raised was on how the University would avoid ‘crony committee-ism with regard to the composition of the court – on this the university secretary welcomed the possibility of having a chat with the member of staff who had made some constructive points in the discussion.

John Biggam - 'We don't seem to see what you are doing...'

Finally UCU membership secretary John Biggam asked what the measure of the court’s effectiveness was, and how it was measured and challenged if the court was found to be ineffective. He asked if there was a role for a staff survey regarding court.

Tony Brian’s view was that judging the court by the standards laid down by the committee of university chairs was the way it ought to be done. On John querying whether they should be judging themselves, Tony replied that they increasingly used external people to come and ‘kick our tyres’ and give that external perspective.

John suggested that the Court’s own procedures made it difficult to judge the effectiveness of court. “We don’t seem to see what you’re doing.  There’s the continuing issue of the difficulty of operating as a staff rep…. but collectively it sounds very discouraging about court – what do you think? … you can’t tell us…….. you might put minutes up….. you don’t know if a survey would be effective….  to the point where, to me it is depressing.”

Tony expressed his disagreement with this, asserting that the effectiveness review would be done with external input to make sure that it was suitably robust….

The meeting finished with a member of staff asking whether this would be published to which Tony Brian answered…. “there are discussions around that kind of thing”.

Management at GCU spurn trade union olive branch and continue with threat of redundancies

To begin with a quote from the message management formally gave the Unions at the consultation meeting yesterday

We are not at this moment in a position to guarantee no compulsory redundancies, but have stated that we will remove the risk of redundancy in respect of this consultation if and when we are in a position to do so”

This was followed by the email yesterday which said that management could “ unequivocally confirm”  that there would be no threat to school based staff.   Management informed us of this yesterday and asked the unions to endorse this move, we rejected this.    The Unions have never been given detailed structures of what the  administrative support for schools would be – unlike in the Central Clusters.  This was confirmed in the message of Mike Smith on 18th April:

“You may recall that the University Court paper dated 3 March provided some information regarding the proposals for administrative and support structures in the new Schools.  The Restructuring Coordination Group are continuing to work on further detail regarding these proposals, including financial analysis of where savings could be made within Schools in order to contribute to our £5million savings target.  We plan to circulate this additional proposal information week commencing 2 May.”

Further today a message has been sent out that this promise has been extended to staff in Facilities and Estate management.

“Divide and Rule”   Continue reading

Is the Principal listening at Glasgow Caledonian? Invite to Silent Protest@Listening Event

Week 5 of our campaign against the 95 redundancies has begun.

Last week saw the plans for the cuts to Central Service Clusters and a series of all staff meetings convened by management.  The initial union response was circulated last week and we attended as many of the meetings as we could.  All the unions will be preparing a more detailed response to the plans in the next  3 weeks. Continue reading