ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM) – 22nd March 2017

1.         Welcome to members and introduction of officers

The Chair, Michael Veitch, welcomed everyone to the 2017 UNISON Annual General Meeting.

2.         Apologies for absence

None received.

3.         Review of AGM Minutes 2016

The Minutes of the 2016 AGM were reviewed and deemed to be a correct record.

4.         Elections for posts

New elections were held and the following officers were duly elected:

Branch Secretary                             –           Gill Hunte

Chair                                                  –           Michael Veitch

Treasurer                                           –           Alison Hatt

Membership Officer                         –           Dina Mehdi

Education Officer                             –           Veronica Leacock

Equalities Officers                           –           Melany Wagestrom/Gill Hunte

Young Members Officer                  –           —

Communications Officer                 –           Terry Eastham

Welfare Officer                                 –           Melany Wagestrom

Health and Safety Officers             –           Tanya Perez

International Relations Officer       –           Mohsin Takkal

Retired Members                              –           Beverley Goring

Recruitment Officer                         –           Melany Wagestrom

Labour Link Officer                          –           Dina Mehdi

Stewards:                                          –           Jonathan Buckner

                                                            –           Tanya Perez

                                                             –           Gill Hunte

                                                             –           Melany Wagestrom

                                                              –           Jonathan Buckner

                                                               –           Veronica Leacock

5.         AGM Invited Speaker

Sandy Nicholl, Branch Secretary from SOAS UNISON was invited to address the AGM. He gave us an insight into some of the successful campaigns they have run at SOAS. Of particular interest was their work with outsourced workers.  UNISON fought and won the London Living Wage for their workers and got equivalent sick and holiday pay.  They were now fighting to bring all their outsourced services back in house.  More importantly, they got staff and students behind the campaign, for example the Students’ Union.  What he demonstrated was the importance of involving the wider staff and student bodies in campaigns for better conditions for members such as cleaners and kitchen staff. This is certainly something that we at LSBU can learn from.

6.         Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) and Meetings with VC updates

6.1      On line appraisal system

The online appraisal system is now up and running; members have not reported any major problems with it.

Capability, Disciplinary and Grievance policies

The University is currently reviewing its policies and a new Head of Policy has been engaged for this process.  The unions welcome this review and are involved in it on behalf of members.  Capability procedures in particular have been an issue, where members had felt that these were used as a mechanism to get rid of staff.  We raised these issues with HR, as the whole process appeared to be more punitive than supportive.  The new procedures should now reflect that these are meant to support staff who might be experiencing difficulties in their work situations and all efforts should be made to get workers back on track. Additionally, it was important to ensure that the process was fair and transparent.

  •       New sickness policy

The revised sickness policy was introduced on 1st of March, following discussion with Unions.  The Unions had questioned the amount of contact managers should have with staff who were off sick and how that might be interpreted by the person who is recovering.  A term ‘reasonable’ was used, though we feel it is still open to interpretation by different managers.  The main point was the intent behind the contact and members needing to feel that it was based on concern for them rather than a manager ‘checking up’ on them by telephone.   

6.4      Restructure in Employability

We had one major restructure.   As a result, one person was made redundant.   It was still too early to say whether it was successful.

  •       Staff survey results

It has been completed and the management felt it was better as more staff had participated.  The Unions have asked for more involvement in future, especially in terms of having an input into the questions being asked. They want their involvement to be part of the process and not just used at the dissemination stage.  HR will consider this for next time.

6.6      Staff development – leadership training (not only grade 9 ad 8)

We successfully argued the point that staff on grade 7 were also in a leadership role and should be involved in this training. Grade 7s will now be invited to attend.  We went further and asked for staff on grades 6 and 5 to be given more opportunities for training in order to enhance their chances of career progression.  We argued that Shadowing and Secondments can be used to help people to gain the necessary experience.  The University needed to show that it was serious about career progression for all its staff, in particular those on lower grades who can feel excluded from the process. It was agreed that during the appraisal, this training should be highlighted so that the Staff Development team could put something in place. 

  •       Trade union facility time to change

In the new Trade Union Act, the government is demanding of employers to specify time taken out for union duties in an itemised way.  This can be problematic because officers can be working on cases simultaneously some weeks and then nothing in other weeks.  HR are sympathetic but these changes are required by law so they must be implemented.  We are also awaiting more guidance from National Office.  

  •       Union subscriptions

Section 15 of the Act states that public sector employers will only be able to make payroll deductions in respect of trade union subscriptions (“check-off”) if workers have the option to pay their subscriptions by other means (e.g. direct debit), and the union makes reasonable payments to the employer in respect of the process of payroll deduction. The University does not currently charge for ‘Check Off’ but under the legislation it would have to charge the Unions an appropriate amount to cover the administrative cost. 

7.         Health and Safety update

The Health and Safety policy has been revised, called Fire Safety Guidance.  The main change is that everyone will now be responsible for ensuring that the policy and safety are upheld.  In the past, it was fire wardens who had sole responsibility for ensuring safety.  This new policy puts the onus on all individuals.

8.         Report from UNISON Regional Organiser

Colin Inniss, Regional Organiser, updated the meeting on current issues, but focused mainly on the new Trade Union Act which was designed to destroy unionism.  The government now requires employers to note down how much time each rep spends representing workers and then charge the union for that facility time. Balloting for industrial action requires that 50% of those eligible should take part in the ballot and of those 35% must agree to strike or 40% for public sector workers.

He spoke generally about some of the conditions that workers have to endure, especially outsourced workers in some organisations, where they were treated appallingly.  He wondered why some universities were engaging contractors who treated their workers with contempt. 

He made the case for more effective organising and noted that the obligation was on all of us to go out and talk to colleagues to get them to join the union so that we can bargain and negotiate from a position of strength. 

9.         Treasurer’s Report

The Branch is in good financial standing with nearly 500 members.  The full report is attached   

10.       AOB

10.1    The meeting noted the death of member, Paul Wiley.  UNISON has registered its condolences and will make a donation to the charity of Paul’s choice.  The University is also arranging transport for staff who wish to attend the funeral.