Tuesday, 22 November 2011

November 30 - UCU are striking - please don't cross their picket lines

I thought I’d try and clarify what is happening on November 30 at Senate House.As I’m sure you know, millions of union members will be on strike across the country on that day in protest at proposed pension changes.

Many UNISON members will also be out, but those members, like ourselves in the pre-92 institutions have not been balloted, as changes to SAUL have not yet been announced.

However, UCU at Senate House are planning to strike that day.

Because of this, we have asked for and received confirmation that no-one need cross the UCU picket line.

Therefore, on 30 November you are free to take unpaid leave (as if you were striking) or annual leave. You just need to notify your manager the next day (although as a courtesy please feel free to call in as if calling in sick).

We would urge everyone NOT TO COME IN on that day – we will be supporting UCU, as well as all the other unions, in striking against pension changes which will AFFECT ALL OF US very soon.

Any questions / problems with managers – just let me know.

Best wishes


Danny Millum
Communications Officer
UNISON Senate House Branch
020 7862 8812

Monday, 24 October 2011

Pensions - SAUL update

Hello all - I know it's boring, BUT there are important changes being proposed to SAUL pensions.

See here for the changes, and here for the employers' letter.

Please, please send all feedback to Josephine Grahl or Danny Millum.

If you are NOT a UNISON member, please still send feedback - and join as quickly as possible by contacting Danny Millum.

Monday, 17 October 2011

London Living Wage and Sick Pay Campaign Updates

Protests were held on September 14 and October 3 to press the University on the immediate implementation of the LLW and sick pay.

The University has changed its position for the third time by starting a phased introduction of the London Living Wage this October. For example, cleaning staff will move from £6.15 to £6.68 this month and Senate house porters from £6.90 to £7.50. Senate House UNISON has been a key part of the campaign, and has been involved in negotiations with the University, and is delighted to see these low-paid workers realising the first tangible rewards for their efforts. However the campaign is not won yet, and Senate House UNISON continues to call on the University to recognise that at the moment they are still paying workers a poverty wage, and have done nothing to resolve the sick pay issue.

There will be another protest on Tuesday 18 October from 12h30 to 14h30 in front of International Hall (Lansdowne Terrace, in front of Coram’s Fields near Russell Square tube stop). It would be great if any branch members who could were able to attend.

Recognition Agreement

On October 5 Unison signed a recognition agreement with Balfour Beatty Workplace. Balfour Beatty Workplace was not legally required to recognise our union however they did so voluntarily.

This is a massive achievement, and means that all BBW workers (like University of London workers) will now be consulted over major workplace issues, and have a regular forum to discuss any problems.

They can also elect workplace representatives, who will have the opportunity to get training and get more involved in the union, all during working hours.

A lot of people worked very hard to secure this agreement, which sets a real example for other University contractors, and we also appreciate the co-operation of BBW in resolving this.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

London Living Wage Campaign - Demonstration Monday 3 October at 12 noon.

The Senate House London Living Wage and Sick Pay campaign will be holding a demonstration in the Russell Square car park at 12 noon on Monday 3 October to call on the University of London to implement the LLW and sick pay.

The last demonstration was a great success, and the University has already moved its position on the issue, but workers cannot understand why the LLW (set by Boris Johnson as the minimum to live on in London) cannot be paid now, in full.

It has been paid at SOAS since 2008, and is now paid in most Bloomsbury Colleges. Workers have already campaigned for a year at Senate House, and cannot understand why they are being asked to wait another year to be brought up to this minimum standard.

Senate House UNISON supports the demonstration, and urges all members to attend and support their low-paid colleagues.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Update on Senate House London Living Wage and Sick Pay Campaign

Many apologies - I meant to post a recap of developments in the London Living Wage campaign at Senate House, and have just not got round to it. So here goes.

The demonstration on September 14 was a great success, attended by around a hundred staff, workers and students (particularly impressive outside term time), and addressed by MPs John McDonnell and Frank Dobson (as well, of course, as our local branch chair Tony Mabbott).

Many thanks to all the University of London staff who gave up their lunchtimes to attend - this was much appreciated by all the directly affected workers concerned.

The University of London chose to close access to the cloisters from the Russell Square car-park, but I'm sure the prospective students arriving for their open day gained a pretty clear idea of some of the issues likely to be affecting their University careers.

The University also sent senior management to address organisers, as well as producing a leaflet affirming their commitment to payment of the LLW.

Unfortunately, their current position still sems to be that the LLW will be introduced by July 2012. There is no timetable for this, no guarantee that jobs and hours-worked will be protected, no explanation of how wage differentials will be maintained, no acceptance of the year-on-year LLW ladder, no mention of the cost of providing sick-pay, and no figures.

Despite frequent requests by the Senate House UNISON branch, and promises on behalf of the University, no costings have been provided as evidence for claims that it would be impossible for the University to introduce the LLW now.

Unfortunately, our members (cleaners, porters, postroom workers, caterers, security guards) earning below the £8.30 per hour which has been agreed independently as being the mimimum wage to live in London have lost faith in unsubstantiated promises and delays. We have been asking for the LLW for over a year now, and are now being told it cannot be paid for another year (despite neighbouring institutions now moving into their third year of LLW compliance).

The Senate House London Living Wage and Sick Pay campaign will therefore be holding its next demonstration, to coincide with Freshers week, welcome new students to Bloomsbury, and introduce them to some of the realities of student life, on Monday October 3 outside Senate House. The Senate House Branch of UNISON will be supporting this demonstration, and it would be great to have as many members there in support of our fellow workers.

Friday, 23 September 2011

New College of the Humanities - Déjà Vu from Down Under

An Antipodean comrade writes....

I have had a look at bits and pieces about the NCH on the net, and the parallels with Bond University being founded on its Gold Coast campus in the late-1980s multiply. The sales pitch was pretty much the same: the public universities are not performing so 'we at Bond' will show them how it is done. The aggressive and dismissive demeanour and the OTT public pronouncements of the first Vice-Chancellor were distinctly unhelpful, and quite unnecessary from a PR view of view. Brash arrogance. Bond proclaimed itself the Harvard of the southern hemisphere which would attract all the best students, so it is unsurprising that many academics were antangonised – and the combination the Alan Bond (and especially his financial links with Chile) and a private university was too much for many. The fees were also pretty steep: $1500 per course was a lot of money in those days (the School of Science, whose fees were event higher, attracted so few undergraduate students that it became the Research School of Science). There were also 1st year core courses at Bond. Does all this start to ring a bell?

There were differences. Bond University had its own campus in the suburb of Robina whereas NCH wants to tap into existing infrastructure in London, and I'm alarmed that no agreements are in place. Getting the Bond campus ready in time for the commencement of teaching in March or April 1989 was a nightmare, because of an unusually wet summer -- which underlines the necessity of having the teaching spaces at the ready beforehand – something that could really unsettle NCH unless it gets its shit together. At Bond there was no professoriate-in-absentia: everyone lived locally, or in the vicinity, and fronted to work each day. But the lack of fee-paying students and a misreading of the market and the mood out there resulted in hard times ahead for Bond. I am largely indifferent to NCH, but I'm definitely dubious about its feasability and sustainability. Bond University also started as an 'awfully big adventure' but a basic premise – that Australians would recognise quality and be prepared to pay for it – was unfounded. The place never lived up to its own hype and, from distant observation, I doubt whether NCH will either. It all sounds so familiar to me.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Senate House LLW Demonstration - Wed 14 September

Workers at the University of London will be holding a mass demonstration on Wednesday to demand that the London Living Wage be paid to all university workers. Students, lecturers and staff from universities across London will be joining the protest.

The demonstration will take place from 11.30am in the Senate House carpark (Russell Square side) and is expected to be attended by over a hundred workers and supporters. Labour MPs Frank Dobson and John McDonnell are both scheduled to speak.

Organised by UNISON with the workers concerned, and supported by UCU, London Citizens, and the National Union of Students, as well as many London-based NGOs and MPs, the Senate House London Living Wage and Sick Pay Campaign calls on the University of London to implement the full £8.30 wage, backdated to 1 September 2011, and introduce full sick pay for all workers. The cleaners are sub-contracted to Balfour Beatty Workplace, part of the multinational construction company which had a 32% rise in profits in 2010, while the caterers are employed by the massive US company Aramark, 189th on the Fortune 500 list.

The London Living Wage, supported by Mayor Boris Johnson, is an independently assessed wage which reflects the minimum required to live above the poverty line in London. The wage currently stands at £8.30 an hour, and is paid by all the surrounding colleges of the University of London, including SOAS, Birkbeck, LSE, and the Institute of Education. In contrast, the cleaners working for the central University are paid just £6.15 an hour, and receive no sick pay beyond the statutory minimum. University College London committed to paying the Living Wage to all employees after their unethical employment practices were exposed by the Evening Standard.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


If any workers employed either directly by the University or any of its contractors, decide to take unlawful strike action, then we as a Branch cannot condone the action, as it will not have been called in accordance with industrial action legislation.

We do, however, fully sympathise with the immense frustration many staff feel after months of unresolved problems over pay, which have placed a number of workers in serious financial hardship. We would also not be surprised if the fact that employees do not receive the London Living Wage has played a large part in the decision of individuals to resort to such action - many staff employed at the University of London are paid only three quarters of the going rate for the same job at neighbouring institutions.

We support the continued struggle of such employees to be paid a London living wage, in full and on time for the work that they do.

We are pleased by the decision of BBW not to take disciplinary action against those participating and will continue to work with BBW to resolve any outstanding individual and collective disputes as a matter of urgency.

UNISON Senate House Branch

Friday, 5 August 2011

May 2011: A good and bad month for income inequality in the UK

Our resident economics editor Simon Lundlack has put together a fascinating and very relevant piece on income inequality in the UK.

It contains both worrying details of the growth of inequality, and welcome evidence of the effectiveness of unions in promoting equality in those workplaces where they are recognised and effective.

For the full report see here. Any questions, please contact Simon on simon.lundlack@sas.ac.uk.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Senate House London Living Wage Campaign - Mass Rally a Great Success

More details will follow soon, including more photos, but I just wanted to briefly report back on the rally last Saturday, which was a fantastic success. We filled the lecture theatre at SOAS not just with representatives from across the Bloomsbury unions, student groups and NGOs, but with workers from across the University of London, many of whom spoke of their own experiences of working in their current low-waged environments.

It was great for everyone to come together and see how many people were in the same position, and how much support there was for the campiagn both inside and outside the University of London. The event was trilingual, with translations to and from Spanish and Polish, and it was great that the opportunity was taken to publicise further UNISON's new programme of English lessons for contract workers.

Frank Dobson MP spoke, and pledged to support in any way he could the campaign to pay the London Living Wage at Senate House.

To show your support please do visit and sign our online petition now at:


Monday, 4 July 2011

Senate House London Living Wage Campaign

Stop Press: The meeting will be addressed by local MP and supporter Frank Dobson.

This Saturday 9 July UNISON Senate House are organising a launch for the campaign for the London Living Wage for outsourced University of London employees.

We're hoping for a big turnout from the workers themselves, many of whom are now members of the branch, and it would be great if other University of London employees could come down to help and show their support.

The event starts at 11am at SOAS - we're in room G2, but if you just come to the main entrance we can show you where to go.

Any questions, just let me know - danny.millum@sas.ac.uk or 07783 719479.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

New College of the Humanities - response from our Vice Chancellor

My letter:

Dear Professor Crossick,

I am writing on behalf of UNISON Senate House to express our concern at the recent announcement of A.C. Grayling’s proposed profit-making New College of the Humanities (NCH). In particular we would like to clarify the relationship between the University of London and the NCH.

The NCH website states that students at that college
…will share many resources of the University of London: the exceptional library in Senate House, the University of London Union... (http://www.nchum.org/student-life/london)
However, the University of London’s press release on the matter says, among other things:
No agreement has been concluded as yet regarding access to the Senate House Libraries by NCH students.

Can you confirm whether Dr Grayling has made a formal approach to the University? Is an institution-level arrangement being negotiated with the NCH? If it is, on what terms will NCH students be able to use Senate House Library and the university libraries?

We further understand that the NCH expects to use existing academic buildings in Bloomsbury for lecture and tutorial space (http://twitter.com/#!/NewCollegeH/status/77705479219986433). Again, what arrangements are being made with the College regarding use of University rooms?

We believe it would be beneficial not just from UNISON’s perspective but also that of the University and its reputation to obtain as much clarity as possible regarding these points.

Best wishes,

Josephine Grahl
Acting Branch Secretary
UNISON Senate House

Professor Crossick's response:

Dear Josephine

Thanks for your message. I have little to add to our statement, which sets out the basis of the New College of the Humanities connection to University of London International Programmes. I’m attaching that statement for your information as it answers most of your questions. It also explains the character of International Programmes and the ways in which independent teaching institutions relate to it. There is nothing different about the place of NCH in that, whatever Anthony Grayling may have said or left to be inferred.

NCH will not make use of any University premises for its teaching or other activities. I cannot speak for Colleges but am not aware that any have come to an arrangement with him for use of their space.

To answer your final point, I can assure you that staff have worked very hard this week to counter any adverse consequences for the University of London arising from the ways in which the launch of NCH was announced, with a letter in The Guardian and repeated responses as appropriate to inaccuracies identified in press reports. I believe that we have achieved that but we remain attentive.

I hope that this provides the reassurance that you sought, but if you need any further information I suggest that you contact Professor Jonathan Kydd, Dean of International Programmes.

Best wishes,


Professor Geoffrey Crossick
University of London

The press release referred to can be found here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Thoughts of Chairman Mabbott

Our Tony's burgeoning media career continues, with another appearance last week on 3 Counties radio.

For all those interested in his pearls of wisdom, he's on from 6pm at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00h28c8.

Apparently he has also acquired groupies - mostly middle-aged real ale drinking men, but you've gotta start somewhere...

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The debate around the New College of the Humanities

Some more information about AC Grayling’s private, for-profit New College of the Humanities, as mentioned in the previous post.

You can see the website for the college
here. Blogger Infinite Thought has a long post explaining how the college will work here, and the Guardian’s first report on the project is here.

A number of problems have been raised. Academic Terry Eagleton criticises the college
here, describing it as a “disgustingly elitist outfit”. Blogger Ads Without Products suggests that the financial model of the college is not viable, a claim also examined by the Guardian here. Meanwhile the Guardian has also reported that the star professors (who include Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Niall Ferguson) may only deliver one lecture a year. Concerns have also been raised about the syllabus on offer, which may have been copied from existing University of London courses.

Although the NCH website implies that there may be links between it and Birkbeck College and the University of London, Birkbeck have put out a press release stating that “Birkbeck has no links with New College and no agreement to provide New College with access to any of its facilities”. The Dean of the University of London International Programmes wrote to the Guardian today to state that “New College of the Humanities (NCH) is entirely independent and is not and will not become part of the University of London”.

UNISON Senate House will write to the Vice Chancellor of the University of London in order to clarify the position of the University towards the New College of the Humanities.

New University of the Humanities - Grayling at Foyles

A. C. Grayling made an appearance at Foyles last night to at which his controversial New College of the Humanities was discussed.

Here's a video about what happened at Foyles.


The video, which is of course selective, rather makes Toby Young in today's telegraph, among others no doubt, look like even more of a fool than he usually looks: http://tgr.ph/lNzhX9 ("I was sorry to hear about your spot of bother at Foyles last night, but can’t say I’m surprised. Being shouted down in public by left-wing zealots is the fate of anyone who challenges the educational establishment I’m afraid. Their allegiance to the status quo isn’t based on reason, but on tribal loyalty. Public education is the last redoubt of the hard left and their student praetorian guard will stop at nothing to defend their turf. Their aim is not to persuade you of the errors of your ways, but to terrorise you into renouncing your heretical ideas. They are the secular equivalent of the Taliban’s goon squads").

Friday, 27 May 2011

UCL Outsourcing Demo May 26

Around 100 staff and students from across the Bloomsbury campus came to protest in the main square of UCL today, against management’s ill-advised and unjust plans to outsource 96 long-serving staff.

Outsourcing to a private contractor would mean less pay, less control over working hours and no job security for these workers. Collectively, they have given 1,250 years of work to UCL – and in return are being treated with contempt. The Union meeting scheduled for the beginning of this week was cancelled by management at the last minute, and the feedback staff gave during the 20-day consultation period has still not been given a response.

During a well attended rally in the quad one cleaner, who has worked at UCL for 26 years, spoke of her anger at a management team who have only a few years collective experience. Unison representatives emphasised that though this may be an attack on cleaners and security staff today, management have implied that their plans extend to all support staff, and that the fight against privatisation and for job security is a fight for all university workers. Student speakers spoke of the gross attitude of management towards the use of their finances, and the precarity of the job market for future graduates as much as for current support staff.

After the rally, the students and staff went on a tour of UCL, including outside the office of Malcolm Grant, the Provost of UCL, and chanted ‘Outsourcing, no way! Redistribute Malcolm’s pay!’ and ‘Malcolm Grant get out, we know what you’re all about: cuts, job losses, money for the bosses!’

Speakers at today’s demo included workers from UCL and SOAS, as well as students from UCL and Birkbeck, and union representatives from Unison and UCU. An emergency general meeting of the UCL Unison branch is scheduled for Tuesday at 7.30am and Wednesday at 1pm, including a motion on an indicative ballot for industrial action to oppose the outsourcing.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

UCL Outsourcing Campaign - Demo this Thursday

The latest from Bloomsbury Fightback! on the planned outsourcing at UCL:

Real Democracy now!
¡Democracia Real YA!

Estates and facilities staff have been lied to, treated with contempt
and ignored.
Now it's our turn to talk back!

Demonstration Thursday 26 May 2011, UCL Quad 1pm

Outsourcing is NOT a done deal. There have been all sorts of rumours
going around - people have been saying that they're losing their
pensions, that there's nothing we can do. Well we can do something.
This Tuesday 31 May, there is going to be a Special General Meeting of the
UCL Unison branch, called for by 65 Unison members. At this meeting
we will discuss:

- What management have actually been planning
- How we can stop the outsourcing

It might be the Estates and Facilities staff today, but next time
perhaps it will be Maintenance staff, or office workers. There are
plenty of temp companies out there. To the likes of Malcolm Grant and
Rex Knight, everyone in this University is replaceable. Us today: you
tomorrow. If you're not a Unison member yet, sign up so that you can
help us stand up to management, and stop the privatisation of UCL!


Students and lecturers!
Bloomsbury works because we do. Now is your chance to stand up for
us, for our employment rights, our pay, our dignity. If Estates and
Facilities staff are outsourced, it will mean: reduced pensions,
reduced pay and no trade union rights.

The way we are being treated by UCL management is simply racist.
Almost all the cleaners being threatened with privatisation are black.
UCL have said they're committed to having a 30% black and minority
ethnic workforce by 2015. But if these changes go ahead, the
workforce will go from 24% to 20% black and minority ethnic! And what
did UCL tell us when we pointed this out? Simply that, under the new
Tory legislation, they are under no obligation to undertake an
equality assessment. They don't even deny it!

Stop the privatisation of campus!
Stop institutional racism!

Real democracy now!

Let me (danny.millum@sas.ac.uk / 020 7862 8812) know if you have any questions.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

UCU Pension Dispute

On 10 May the employers in the USS JNC used their voting majority (with the support of the
‘neutral’ Chair) to push through proposals for a two-tier scheme in which new joiners to USS will not receive a final salary pension. Instead they will receive a CARE (Career Average Revalued Earnings) pension based on an accrual rate of 1/80. This will lead to considerably smaller pensions, as the calculations on the USS website indicate.

In effect, the employers have decided to ignore the UCU’s objections, refused to negotiate, and delayed until the summer to weaken our possible action. UCU has to decide how to respond to this imposition.

Full details to follow.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

London Met Occupation Evicted

The entirely peaceful student occupation of the Graduate Centre on the Holloway Road was raided tonight by 16 thugs, including private security guards, 10 bailiffs, 4 police officers and only ONE London Met Security guard, John Hunt.

For full details see here.

The fight for their future is now hanging in the balance. Please join them for a mass lobby of the Board of Governors on Wednesday at 4.30pm in Moorgate, to make a public protest to save London Met, and call for the resignation of Malcolm Gillies. This is disgraceful behaviour and such actions by Management should not be acceptable in a University environment.

Friday, 6 May 2011

The Equality Act 2010 – Focus Groups

Senate House UNISON are working with the University of London to help it comply with the new Equality Act. See below for details provided by Human Resources.

'Further to the results of recently conducted survey on the Equality Act 2010 (https://intranet.london.ac.uk/3851.html), our next step is to get richer data from a wider cross-section of the organisation. For this to happen, however, we need your involvement.

Please come along to any of the Focus Groups and share your opinions!

Over the period of next three weeks we will be running informal Focus Groups which will consider each of the Protected Characteristics in turn. We are looking for participants to join the discussions, give their opinions and share new ideas. Outcome of the meetings will then be communicated to the HR Division and will be taken into account in respect of the UoL Equality Policy. We kindly ask the managers to allow their staff who wish to participate in the focus groups to attend the sessions.

If you would like to attend one or more of the groups, please send an email to training.room@london.ac.uk.

The meetings will be held from 2pm – 4pm on the following dates:

Date of focus group

Protected Characteristic

Mon, 9 May 2011 in room STB7


Wed, 11 May 2011 in room G32


Fri, 13 May 2011 in room STB7


Mon, 16 May 2011 in room G34


Wed, 18 May 2011 in room G32


Fri, 20 May 2011 in room STB7

Sexual Orientation

Mon, 23 May 2011 in room STB7

Marriage/Civil Partnerships

Wed, 25 May 2011 in room G43


Fri, 27 May 2011 in room G32

Gender re-assignment

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Susan Small, Staff Development and HR Manager on ext. 8101.'

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

What Malcolm Grant Thinks About Outsourcing

Professor Grant was walking by the Portico. ‘Professor Grant’, I asked him, holding out a flyer ‘have you seen this?’

He said he had, and so I asked him if he knew about the UCL outsourcing. He said that naturally he did. I asked him why he was implementing it, in light of the consequences that the flyer spells out (in light of reduced pay, lengthened hours, fragmented shifts, worsened pension schemes, loss of union representation). He asked me if I had read the documents. I asked him if he meant the consultation documents. He averred, and I said that I had glanced at them. Professor Grant told me that in management, three things were important: a focus on core services, quality in service provision, and a professional attitude towards institutional order.

I told him that this list missed out the quality of life for workers. Quality of life is harmed by reduced wages, degraded pension schemes and longer hours. Professor Grant said that in management it was important not to be ideological, and that one shouldn’t assume that working conditions for private sector workers were worse than those enjoyed by public sector workers. For instance, sometimes private sector workers had more opportunities for training than public sector workers. Also UCL was in a position where some workers were privately contracted, and others employed in-house.

This last point didn't seem to me to be particularly relevant. I said that historically conditions for public sector workers had been better than conditions for private sector workers. Professor Grant reminded me that UCL had a commitment to the London Living Wage, for all workers, whether employed in-house or out. I told him that TUPEING workers into private sector contracts incentivised the private contractor to seek technical reasons to make the workers redundant, so that new and cheaper workers might be employed in their place. Professor Grant repeated that there were more training opportunities for private sector workers, and therefore more opportunities for career advancement. I told him that this didn’t address the point I had just made, that private sector contractors were incentivised to make their TUPEED workers redundant. Professor Grant said that he thought that this did address it.

He then said that there was an ongoing consultation process. I said that it ended tomorrow. He thanked me for participating, and said that I should be proud of myself. I told him that unless he did what was absolutely in his power to do, which was stop the outsourcing, this was nothing but condescension. He thanked me again and carried on his way.

Courtesy of a Bloomsbury Fightback! member

Round table radio debate

For those who don't get to listen to our Chair often enough, his appearance on 3 Counties Radio last week is still available on listen again.

The programme is in the archive section for the next two days only...

Simply follow the link, then click on 'Drivetime' - the round table debate starts two hours in:


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Branch AGM

The Branch held its Annual General Meeting on 11 March in Senate House. The event was standing room only, with over 70 members packed into the room. Members heard speakers on the London Living Wage Campaign (Greg Brown), and on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe (Leo Zeilig). Unfortunately, one guest speaker was not able to attend as she was detained by Zimbabwe security forces.

After the speakers were heard, members had the opportunity to consider reports from the Chair, Treasurer and Branch Officers. The Branch also elected its committee members for the next year.

Before breaking for a well-deserved lunch, the local Unison officer presided over the 'Recruit a Friend Prize Draw', where a member from the Courtauld Institute won an ipod. Four other lucky members received runner up prizes including a £100 red-letter day voucher, and book tokens.

Please see here for full minutes of the meeting.

Bloomsbury Fightsnack

A campaigning picnic on Thurdsay 28 April, 12 noon-2pm, UCL Quadrangle Courtyard

See map here.

Bloomsbury is biting back at the assault on our public services. Teachers, health workers, students and university staff are mobilising across our community to say: we’re not swallowing your cuts!

Take an activist lunch-hour and meet other Bloomsbury trade unionists and campaigners to exchange experiences and learn more about:


Join Bloomsbury Fightback on Facebook or by emailing bloomsbury-fightback@googlegroups.com

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Pay Negotiations

The first set of national HE pay negotiations took place on the 20th April. The Joint HE unions presented the national pay claim which they had submitted the previous day. The unions vigorously pressed the case for a need for a decent pay award this year linked to inflation to offset recent poor pay settlements in the sector. The employers responded, presenting their own background paper, which predictably sought to plead poverty. After a frank exchange of views the employers undertook to respond to the claim by the next scheduled meeting at the end of May. The unions made it clear that they expected an offer in response to their claim at that meeting. A copy of the claim and the employers background paper can be found at this link Joint Pay Claim

Friday, 15 April 2011

UCL Outsourcing Campaign - Public Meeting

Come to a meeting organised by Bloomsbury Fightback! At the meeting speakers from local Bloomsbury Colleges will talk about what outsourcing has meant for their pay and conditions. Then we'll plan the next steps for the No Outsourcing! campaign.

We can win the battle against outsourcing through unity with our union members in a collective united campaign.

Thursday 14 April - 6pm
Foster Court, Room 101

Any questions, contact danny.millum@sas.ac.uk / 07783 719479

Thursday, 14 April 2011

UNISON on the march

There was a great turnout from the branch for the massive March 26 demo - see above for some pictures featuring the first appearance of our new customised Senate House banner. If nothing else, it performed the vital service of obscuring the Communications Officer's face...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Senate House UNISON condemns proposed outsourcing at UCL

UCL management are planning to outsource 94 cleaning, portering and security staff to private contractors. The majority of these are UNISON members. If they are outsourced, they can expect the following:
  • to lose their pensions
  • to have their terms and conditions worsened
  • to face redundancies, and receive lower redundancy payments
  • to lose union recognition
  • to be totally separated from their UCL collegues
There are no good reasons for outsourcing to occur. UCL is one of the richest universities in the country. It is not in debt. The decision to outsource displays total contempt for the people who work to keep the college running.

UCL management evidently believes that support workers exist to perform menial tasks and should be procured at the lowest possible cost. We utterly reject this. We believe that support staff, academics and students are all part of the same community. Everyone in that community deserves equal respect. All workers deserve decent pay and conditions.

What can I do?

Our first task is to defeat the proposed changes. We don’t have much time. Consultation ends on May 4. Therefore we want to get as many people as possible involved in a big grassroots campaign, involving support workers, academics and students.

Bloomsbury UNISON and UCU branches, along with student groups and other activists have formed Bloomsbury Fightback! A mass meeting is being organised, where speakers from local Bloomsbury Colleges will talk about what outsourcing has meant for their pay and conditions, and the campaign's next steps will be decided.

If you want to get involved and help, contact danny.millum@sas.ac.uk for more information.

Pensions - Let's step this campaign up a gear

Last week we came to winning on some amendments to the Pensions Bill in the House of Lords – amendments that would have reduced the impact of the government’s unfair changes to the state pension age that are making thousands of women wait up to 2 years longer for their pension.

We now know that the Bill is due for it third reading in the Lords at the end of April – that means that it’s likely to move to the House of Commons in May.

This could be our last chance to stop these changes. We need to convince MPs to oppose them in Parliament. That’s why we have called a local 'weekend of action' on April 15th and 16th. We need as many people as possible to go and see their MPs in their local constituency surgery, and explain why the government’s plans are unfair.

Help us take this campaign to the next level. Sign up now to lobby your MP next weekend.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

A Letter to the Vice-Chancellor

Senate House Unison branch strongly disagree with our VC’s support for a letter in the Telegraph defending the increase in student fees. While we recognise that Professor Crossick defends raising fees only in the light of the recent withdrawal of funding from higher education, the change in funding is also a political decision which must be opposed – and one which is not expected to save much money in the short term.

Higher and further education are vitally important not just for individuals but also for society. An educated workforce is an advantage for the country in many ways, and access to higher education for everyone is crucial if we are to emerge from the recession and build the economy. As workers in higher education we are also concerned about our own jobs and working conditions and about the increasing commercialisation of the higher education sector. We support the students, the NUS and UCU and oppose both the removal of government funding from the HE and FE sectors and the rise in fees that this will lead to. We call upon our VC to do the same.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Why Black History Month (still) Matters

October is Black History Month: the foremost opportunity – for all communities – to remember and celebrate the place of Black people in the annals of Britain's past.

Before we proceed, it's worth dwelling briefly on the term Black, as used in UNISON parlance. Black, is a broad political term, spelt with a capital 'B' to distinguish it from the colour black. It describes those non-white communities in Britain that suffered colonialism and enslavement in the past, and, today often face racism and diminished opportunities. Africans and Asians used the term routinely during the UK antiracist campaigns, which became pronounced from the seventies onwards. The west London women's rights and advocacy group Southall Black Sisters – with its primary focus on vulnerable Asian and African-Caribbean women – is a perfect illustration of the term's usage.

While debates over the suitability of the term Black are almost perennial – after all, for example, many reasonably ask, what about the cultural distinctions between Africans and Asians? Or, what of marginalised non-Black ethnic minorities, such as the Irish? – a satisfactory new vocabulary has yet to be created. And, for the time being at least, the prevailing sentiment at UNISON Black Members' conferences is to remain, solidly and straightforwardly, Black.

So then, in our multicultural era, why do we continue to hold a Black History Month? In short, because Black history has (still) yet to become fully mainstream. For example, not so long ago, I – surely like many others – was never taught at school that the Indian contribution to Britain's forces in both World Wars outstripped that of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined. In World War II, India supplied a massive 2.5 million personnel. The curriculum also failed to cover African regiments which fought across continents for Britain.

Black History Month then, is an attempt to get our story known. And, to some extent, it would be fair to say that such aims are being realised. Our experience is slowly becoming better, and, more widely appreciated. We must not be naïve however; Black history still plays second fiddle to a traditional interpretation, which has Europe as its locus.

Perhaps ironically, Black History Month is not only a period for reflection on the past; simultaneously, during this time, we are prompted to consider the status and vitality of Black communities in the present. When the Commission for Racial Equality was replaced by the Equality & Human Rights Commission three years ago its final report was entitled: "A Lot Done, A Lot To Do, Our Vision for an Integrated Britain". Here is an excerpt:
Only a few decades ago, it was acceptable to put up a sign in a boarding house or B&B saying 'No blacks, no Irish, no dogs'. We don't see those signs anymore, thanks to the race relations legislation that made them illegal, as well as thirty years of hard work by the Commission for Racial Equality and others in changing the national mindset to make them morally inconceivable.

But let's not kid ourselves. Britain, despite its status as the fifth largest economy in the world, is still a place of inequality, exclusion and isolation. An ethnic minority British baby born today is sadly still more likely to go on to receive poor quality education, be paid less, live in sub-standard housing, be in poor health and be discriminated against in other ways than his or her white contemporaries. This persistent, longstanding inequality is quite simply unfair and unacceptable.
As the above being the sum of our immediate prospects, and with the government's savage budget cuts predicted to disproportionately hurt Black communities, initiatives like Black History Month – with its ability to help lift spirits and facilitate debate – clearly remain crucial in the continuing struggle for the economic and cultural progress of Black communities throughout Britain.

Let us all have an enjoyable autumn and stimulating Black History Month.

Eren Panesar (Black Members Officer)

UNISON in combination with the wider trade union movement - has long campaigned with, and for, the interests of Black people. Typically, Black trade unionists receive better pay & conditions and are less likely to face discrimination at work than non-unionised Black workers. As a means of tackling the marginalisation Black people often face in society, UNISON Black members ‘self-organise’;
as do women, disabled and LGBT members. ‘Self-organising’ brings members with common experiences together and helps them to effectively consider, raise and resolve issues of concern arising at the workplace and beyond. All Black members (and interested nonmembers) wishing to receive UNISON’s informative quarterly publication ‘Black Action’ or discuss relevant issues should get in touch with the Senate House Black Members Officer eren_panesar@yahoo.co.uk.

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