Friday, 16 May 2014

Garden Halls Update

With 30th June moving ever closer, we wanted to update our members on the current situation with the Garden Halls redundancies. The university is demolishing the buildings in order to build newer, modern halls of residence for their students and unfortunately 80 jobs will no longer exist, Cofely will not be funded by the University of London for these jobs.

Cofely are continuing to consult with staff and with UNISON. The staff forum reps have been briefed and will take collective issues or questions directly to Cofely on behalf of their staff members. If any Cofely staff are unsure who their reps are, don’t hesitate to ask. Alternatively, UNISON members can bring their concerns to our UNISON reps or UNISON regional officers who can answer questions or pass them along. UNISON held a meeting with members at the Garden Halls recently and have passed along such questions to Cofely, members will then be informed of the answers ASAP.

One to one meetings are another opportunity for staff to raise their concerns directly with Cofely managers, a chance to discuss individual circumstances and ask questions that they may not want to discuss in a group setting, such as individual redundancy pay. These are valuable opportunities and staff should already be expressing their interest with one to one meetings scheduled over the coming week. If members are concerned they haven’t yet been given an appointed they should contact their UNISON reps. Reps can be taken into these meetings in order to help ensure that the members ask the questions that they want to ask, help clarify answers and can help take notes or discuss the meeting afterwards with members.

Cofely also have a duty to try and mitigate the number of redundancies. They have decided not to offer voluntary redundancies but have advertised jobs across Cofely as well as in other contracts. If staff decide to take up these opportunities then they will retain their current terms and conditions of employment (holiday, sick pay and pensions) which will be a great relief to many. There will also be vacancies at the University of London advertised with the intention to redeploy as many staff as possible. Staff that are interested should apply for these jobs ASAP, the selection and interview process will be as fair and transparent as possible (with a selection matrix to be used). The interview will be conducted as any other job interview would be.

Cofely have also offered to support staff through a reasonable level of training should it be needed to take up new employment within Cofely. UNISON and Cofely would like to put on ESOL classes, however only a few members of staff have expressed interest. An ESOL qualification would help with finding future employment as well as helping staff develop personally. If staff would like classes and can guarantee the attendance of at least 12 people, UNISON will help facilitate this. Private classes can cost over £1000, UNISON, in conjunction with Cofely, will offer them for free.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our local reps, Jill Coldrick-Chappell (, 07900598817) and Marta Gryc (075 16 861255) with any questions. Jo Galloway (07961044951) and Dario Lopez (07904342453) are also on hand to offer support and advice.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Garden Halls Closure: What next for our members?

On 11th April the University of London finally announced the closure of the garden halls as 30th June 2014 . Both Senate House UNISON branch members and Cofely managers have expected this announcement since Summer 2013 and has been a topic of discussion at both JNC meetings between UNISON and the University and at the monthly UNISON and Cofely forums. Despite the University dragging its heels, UNISON has been proactive in the run up to the announcement.

Already UNISON has been discussing with Cofely how to mitigate the negative consequences for staff that the hall closures will cause. UNISON and Cofely have begun to engage in a series of meetings in addition to the monthly forum to discuss a fair redundancy procedure that will include offering voluntary redundancy packages to other Cofely employees which may hopefully open up other spaces in the University of London contract for garden halls staff. Meanwhile, Cofely managers are ensuring that jobs opening up in other halls are being offered first to current Cofely staff and vacancies in other Cofely contracts are being advertised. Please speak to your supervisor or your union rep for more information.

For the hopefully reduced number facing redundancies, Cofely and UNISON will be holding meetings to explain the law on redundancy and the redundancy policy that Cofely is following. UNISON branch representatives have attended a recent training course on redundancies and will be fully involved in the procedure. UNISON regional officials have been advising the branch and Cofely, using their experience handling other redundancy situations in universities, to ensure that not only does the Cofely policy follow the law but that it is also as fair as possible and all Cofely staff receive equal treatment. Jill Coldrick-Chappell a security guard at Canterbury Hall and a UNISON steward commented that “I have already met with UNISON regional officials and other security guards in the garden halls to talk about what redundancy might mean for us and what our options may be. Although this is an uncertain time for Cofely staff at the garden halls, UNISON has been so supportive this far and I know that they will make sure my voice is heard and those of the staff I represent as a steward.”

UNISON members should contact Jill Coldrick-Chappell, Sharon Bracey or Jo Galloway if they have any concerns or questions. UNISON will be holding a meeting at the Garden Halls shortly.

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