ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING (AGM) – 13th March 2018

1.         Welcome to members and introduction of officers

The Chair, Michael Veitch, welcomed everyone to the 2018 UNISON Annual General Meeting.

2.         Apologies for absence

Melany Wagestroom

3.         Review of AGM Minutes 2017

The Minutes of the 2017 AGM were reviewed and were deemed a correct record.

4.         Elections for posts

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

            Branch Secretary                             –           Beverley Goring

            Chair                                                  –           Michael Veitch

            Treasurer                                           –           Alison Hatt

            Membership Officer                         –           Dina Mehdi

Education Officer                             –           Beverley Goring

Equalities Officer                             –           Gill Hunte

Young Members Officer                  –           —

Communications Officer                 –           Terry Eastham

Welfare Officer                                 –           Melany Wagestrom

Health and Safety Officers             –           Tanya Perez / Terry Eastham

International Relations Officer       –           Mohsin Takkal

Recruitment Officer                         –           Melany Wagestrom

Labour Link Officer                          –           —

Environmental Officer                     –           Sue Haslam

Stewards:                                          –           Jonathan Buckner

                                                                        –           Tanya Perez

                                                                        –           Gill Hunte

                                                                        –           Jonathan Buckner

5.         Branch, Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) and COO Meetings Updates

Since our last AGM, UNISON officers and stewards have continued to work very hard to support our members here at London South Bank University in a variety of capacities.  For example, we have worked with other unions in consultation with HR as they reviewed their policies; we have supported individual members in disciplinaries, grievances and redundancy meetings and have supported staff on long-term sickness leave. 

JNC Meetings Updates

  • Changes to Maternity Leave and benefits –
  • entitlement to 20 weeks’ full pay after 26 week’s qualifying service
  • End to the practice of withholding four weeks half pay until the woman has returned to work
  • Simpler and easier policy to follow
  • Intention of improving paternity leave to two weeks’ full pay
  • Changes to Sickness reporting – moved to ITrent on line reporting.  Changes to paragraph 11.3
  • Dealing with long-term sickness and how to manage it.  Updated policy is available on line.
  • Probation policy – improvement in timing and reporting.  Form available and developed by ODST
  • Update to time allocation for restructures – clarification on length of days depending on number of staff affected
  • Research staff change to terms and conditions, was mixture of academic and support, now is just support and they benefit from London Weighting allowance.
  • Manual workers’ changes to terms and conditions – London Weighting improved
  • Updated and improved Capability process – change of terminology and emphases on informal meetings and solutions.
  • Bulling policy and cases – staff to staff, manager to staff, staff to manager, student to staff, staff to student – policy is revised as the old policy did not deal with all situation and dealt with the same case separately due to different people involved (this was found to be most unsatisfactory).

Most old policies were revisited and updated; if any changes implemented, changes were positive.

Meetings with the COO – Updates

We have continued to support our outsourced workers; as you may or may not be aware, these are staff attached to former in house provision, which is now contracted out to various companies, including cleaning services, reception, security and catering. Our members face many issues in these companies and we work hard to support them although we do not get any facilities time for work carried out in this capacity.  The volume of this work is increasing year on year.  We complained to the university about the way staff are treated and, at first, they said it had nothing to do with them, as they are not the direct employers.  However, we successfully made the case that any bad publicity relating to outsourced workers could damage the university’s standing among students, staff, local community, and even further afield. This was taken on board and the University instituted meetings with the Chief Operating Officer (COO) who is responsible for contracting the companies, the Contracts Officer and an HR rep, to meet with the union once a term.   

Some of the issues we raised this year included:

We questioned the University about whether these companies had to adhere to the same values as the University in terms of certain policies such as equality, diversity and dignity at work, that is, their EPIC values, and whether such important criteria are part of the bidding process. They were not so the University has now agreed to review this at the contracts level to ensure all staff operating on its premises are treated with dignity and respect. 

We questioned the University about the high level of disputes and grievances relating to outsourced contractors and pointed out that it was not good for business; again, any bad publicity may hurt the University. They have now agreed that they will be notified of disputes and grievances and these will be taken into consideration when contracts are up for renewal. 

We also questioned the University about the use of their logo on guidelines issued to staff in outsourced companies.  Certain guidelines pertaining to dress codes we felt were inappropriate and draconian as female staff were being harassed about personal choices such as make up.  As the leaflet had LSBU’s logo, we held them accountable for such a ridiculous policy.  The leaflet has now been taken out of circulation and the University has agreed that they would have oversight of all documentation put out by outsourced companies. 

We feel that the University is trying to project an outward facing integrated appearance and atmosphere, which is commendable.  If this is the case however, the University has a responsibility to ensure that all staff, including outsourced staff, representing the university, are treated equally, in terms of equality and diversity, and with dignity and respect. 

Welfare Report

UNISON’s Welfare Charity is called There for You

Members experiencing financial and emotional difficulties can contact our welfare charity, There for You, which provides a confidential advice and support service for members and their dependants.

There for You can offer financial assistance during crisis, assistance towards wellbeing breaks Debt-line support and confidential general support on the telephone if you need. 

The There for You lottery has recently been relaunched under the name ‘UNISON Lottery’. Individual members as well as branches can enter. For more information, please go to http://unison.charitylotteries.co.uk/rules/

Financial assistance and welfare breaks are paid for by money raised by branches and volunteers so please support There for You.

Look out for the School Uniform fund, which is available dependant on your financial circumstances.

Regional Higher Education Committee (RHEC)

The Regional Higher Education Committee meets three times a year in central London. There is also a training day each year in July where several LSBU members have previously attended and benefited.

A typical agenda will include reports on recruitment, pensions, outsourced workers and pay. There will also be branch reports from other Higher Education branches, which are a useful indicator of some of the challenges but also some of the successes faced by members at other universities in the London region. At the last meeting, we heard how the SOAS branch has won a commitment to end outsourcing and bring all core support services such as cleaning and catering back in house by September 2018.

H E membership in Greater London grew slightly in 2017 but by fewer than the preceding year. Discussions at committee meetings have emphasized the need to prioritise recruitment and for all branches to hold regular recruitment activities.

MV also outlined that UNISON at SOAS now successfully has a commitment to bring outsourced services back in house.  They have achieved this by first getting the living wage for members and having sick pay and staff benefits added.  This no longer made it viable to outsourced work, as there were no savings to be made.

He also informed the meeting that the joint pay claim with UCU has been delayed because UCU is currently in dispute with their employers over the USS pension.  As soon as this has been resolved, they will be able turn their attention to the pay claim, which is expected to be for 7.5%. 

There will also be a training day on 17th July, and there are four spaces available.  Officers take mostly these but other members can be nominated to fill any spare places. Information about this will be posted on the website nearer the time. 

6. Finance report

See attached

7. Health and Safety Report

See attached

8. Report from UNISON’s Regional Organiser

Colin Innis, Regional Organiser, who oversees the Branch, addressed the meeting.  He thanked the Branch Committee for their hard work over the past year and commended it for being a well-run Branch. He focused on two events, one from the past and one from the present.  From the past he reminded members of the landmark case which UNISON won after a long drawn out battle with the government.  On 27th July 2017, the charging of tribunal fees to members who seek redress from unscrupulous employers were ruled unlawful and unconstitutional and the government was required to pay back members some £27m.  Before 2013, members were able to get redress via an employment tribunal but the government changed the procedures and introduced a law that meant that people bringing a claim had to pay £1200, with no guarantee of getting the money back if they lost the case.  This affected some of the poorest and lowest grade staff who could not afford the fees.  As a result, claims dropped considerably.  This meant that justice was denied to a number of people who wanted redress. It is still unclear how many members have been reimbursed with money since the ruling last year.

The second point Colin highlighted was the present situation of pension strikes within some 65 universities whose staff are part of the USS (University Superannuation Scheme).  The employers are arguing the defined pension scheme now in existence is too costly and are trying to move staff off that scheme to an undefined pension scheme.  This means that staff will invariably lose out because they would have to purchase an annuity, which can open them up to a very uncertain future.  Even though we do not have staff of this scheme at LSBU, it was pointed out that our current scheme LPFA may not be immune from the changes. This is because mostly, other pension schemes will be waiting in the wings to see how the USS problem works out before making their move to change their staff to undefined scheme, and there is evidence that this is already happening to individual members. Colin reiterated the importance of organising and recruitment members so that there is enough strength in the membership to be able to resist some of these new developments foisted on to staff.

9. Members Forum Q&A

Some of the questions raised by members and suggestions made throughout the meeting included:

9.1       Suggestion to have a session on Bullying.  If this is not possible, e.g. as part of Staff Conference, perhaps UNISON could organise such a workshop for members. Stress was another topic of interest to members.

9.2       Issues were raised about overpayment of staff by the university and the mechanism for paying back the overpayment.  It was believed that the University should come a reasonable arrangement to retrieve the money.  This issue will be raised at next available JNC.

9.3       There was also a problem with probation and what criteria were used to change the timetable of the process.  It was suggested that probation training should be given to managers.  This issue will be raised at the next available JNC.      

10.0     AOB

            None.

Meeting closed at 1.50 pm.