The Branch Committee would like to thank members who were able to attend the AGM.
Guest speakers; Oliver Coppard Labour Candidate for Sheffield Hallam Constituency and Leoni Sharp UNISON Regional Officer addressed members.
Prior to the AGM business a networking lunch was held which gave members the opportunity to chat to branch officers, stewards and workplace representatives.
Branch Secretary’s Report
This has been my first year as Branch Secretary after being elected last year. I have worked closely with the Branch Administrator Joanne Ward, Branch Exec, which consists of; Rob Hemus – Treasurer, Matt Fidler – Chair, and Maureen Howard – Assistant Branch Secretary and with our Area Organiser, Sultan Mahmood, as well as with the wider Branch Committee [made up of all other Stewards and Workplace Contacts].
The branch has been very active in a number of ways over the past year:
Drop-in Surgeries with Area Organiser: Sultan Mahmood
We have continued to put on drop-in surgeries every week for all members and stewards to get advice from an Area Officer. These have proved popular and I have been in attendance with Sultan and we have seen and dealt with wide ranging concerns from members. Sultan has also been active in a number of meetings with HR, alongside Matt, Maureen and myself, including the Joint Union Campus Committee (JUCC), the Employment Security Group TULR(C)A, and the negotiations around Reward and Recognition. Sultan has also been asked by HR to run a joint event on Bullying and Harassment, with HR, management, the unions and the Harassment Network – which is quite a compliment.
Branch Training Sessions
We have started to run these training sessions for all Stewards and Workplace Contacts this year, with the help of Sultan, on topics put forward by the Branch Committee on areas they wanted more training or more information such as bullying and harassment, handling grievances and so on. The sessions have had good attendance and we will continue to run these this year.
Our Communications Officer Iain Orr has been very busy designing us a striking new website: http://unisonuos.co.uk/ meaning we can manage the website in house. We are still producing a branch newsletter on a regular basis to keep members informed, these will now be stored on our website.
The industrial action that we held in the previous year due to the measly 1% pay offer, led to a slightly more realistic pay offer for 2014-15, of 2% on all points on the 51 point spine and 2.4% on point 1. This was accepted by members and implemented on 1 August 2014.
Pay and Reward – and the Living Wage:
We have several spent months – since June 2014, negotiating changes to the way the university rewards and recognises it staff, and it is still ongoing. Sultan has been an active part in these meetings with Matt, Maureen and myself.
One really successful result of these negotiations so far, is the Living Wage was agreed – which impacted on around 400 staff on grades 1 and 2 – having their hours reduced from 37 to 35 – and annual salary remain the same – thus the hourly pay had increased and come in line with the Living Wage. This was implemented from 1 August 2014.
Meanwhile, discussion around Reward and Recognition has continued. All the Campus Trade Unions feel fair pay is motivating, whilst performance-related pay and rewards are an ineffective means to motivate. The removal of ECAs is welcomed, as ECAs were demotivating and created feelings of unfairness, a lack of transparency and resentment amongst staff. The Staff Survey showed overwhelmingly that ECAs were not liked and they are too far removed from when the contribution was made.
Recognising Contribution: where managers can give cards, flowers, vouchers, (what we call soft rewards) and team rewards. The Campus Trade Unions felt individual rewards like this, could cause contention and resentment – but we were keen to discuss team rewards.
Promotion: there will be changes to the promotion process, including the flexibility that promotions can happen at any stage in the year.
SRDS: changes to SRDS are being discussed, e.g. the removal of the ‘1-2-3’ scoring system has been agreed, as this was heavily disliked in feedback from the staff survey. It is planned that SRDS will provide for much clearer and realistic conversations about growth and development.
Increments: accelerated increments and withholding increments are both under discussion. The University want to give managers power (in addition to that which currently exists within the capability and the disciplinary procedure) to withhold increments as part of SRDS for those staff who are underperforming, and in performance measures. The discussions between the Campus Trade Unions and HR got quite acrimonious, with HR calling in National Officers from the Campus Trade Unions, as they felt they had hit stalemate with us (local stewards). National and Regional Officers underlined everything we said. Our new Regional Officer, Leonie Sharp, joined us at this key meeting, and was really effective. Leonie’s input broke the stalemate, with HR agreeing not to focus this on SRDS and instead to look at trying to expand the current Capability and Disciplinary policies. So now the unions and HR are relooking at these policies and procedures, which already provide for the withholding of increments in formal stages.
For further information see: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/hr/thedeal
The Sheffield Professional and Support Staff
Professional Staff (in particular clerical and administrative staff) are finding that they are being encouraged to move around the University, especially if they want promotion. This is a particular focus of The Sheffield Professional. We have received reports that some departments seem reluctant to grow and develop roles – as these roles have been designed carefully to meet business needs at a particular grade, so it’s not very often that such a role can “grow”. Therefore departments will encourage Professional Staff to seek promotion elsewhere, in order to keep the role at the lower grade. Loyalty is not rewarded. Staff may undertake extra elements, or get involved with projects, but that would not be to grow their role, rather it would be for their own personal growth – so that when opportunities come up elsewhere, they are better suited to apply.
Please keep us informed if this is your experience.
Pensions: USPS-FS Dispute
Members of both Unite and UNISON voted to end the USPS Final Salary Scheme dispute from 2011 with a compensation payment of £220 – approx.; £150 net. The University paid this to all members of the scheme at the time of its closure.
Pensions: USPS FRP
Annual statements of pensions were problematic as they moved the Pension Scheme administration to Capita from MPNA – and discovered lots of gaps in the data. Captia are checking the salary and employment history of each member and rectifying any under and overpayments.
For those of our members in USS, you will be aware that USS is under attack – with the loss of the Final Salary Scheme. The unions warned this would happen, when they introduced a CARE scheme in 2012 for new members in the scheme. Negotiations are underway for the closure of the Final Salary Scheme to be replaced by a new CARE scheme, this will be rolled out to all USS members from April 2016. The 60 day consultation begins today (16 March) and consultation responses will be considered by the USS Trustee Board. The Unviersity have set up a series of staff forums during March and April to provide further information and answer staff questions. See:
UNISON individual members from Portering staff, and Unite as a collective, have been in dispute, as a results of changes to their employment, some of which breached the National Framework Agreement: eg. the introduction of a Holidays Included Shift Pattern (HISP), and other changes, such as Banked Hours, being On Call (without on call payment) and a change to the ‘holiday’ year (the holiday year has now been rectified).
The Dispute Hearing produced a mixed result. The Panel upheld part of Unite’s collective dispute (which UNISON agreed to have apply to our individual members), especially the bits that breached the framework, but said the HISP could remain. Management initially came up with three options to resolve the dispute. The unions asked management to set up a meeting to explain the options to staff – instead they set up a series of mini-briefings, which had incredibly poor take-up. UNISON and Unite called a meeting with porters on 5 March, at which a fourth option was considered, and we are still negotiating next steps.
A number of restructures have taken place across the university this year. Job losses have been kept to a minimum using the new change management procedures. This can be a prolonged and involved process, and unions work hard to protect members and ensure proper process is followed. There are further restructures and reviews ahead.
UNISON emailed all members asking you to feedback into the Master Plan (the building plans for the Campus, including transport and parking, and the pedestrianising of parts of the Campus). It is clear the University are reducing significantly the number of spaces for parking that are available, while increasing staff numbers (for example new buildings and developments, such as The Diamond could provide hundreds of new jobs, with no additional parking). UNISON Steward, Ruth Gunstone, sits on the Transport Committee as the representative of all Campus Trade Unions and has raised a number of concerns about the decreasing number of spaces. The University’s response is to encourage the use of public transport, bicycles and journeys on foot.
The good news is that of the 72% of staff who completed the survey, 94% are proud to work here. However, there were issues raised in specific areas that raised concerns and the individual department surveys and action plans have not been freely shared with the Campus Trade Unions. Some ‘hot spot’ departments where we get a lot of casework have been provided on request. In one department we used a Health & Safety inspection, which Matt Fidler, one of our H&S reps, was involved in, to identify if there were stress issues (as workplace stress is part of H&S legislation) and more than 20 of a department’s 100 staff came forward and gave us quite harrowing stories, so we have been working collectively with UCU and Unite to follow this up.
Bullying and Harassment, Wellbeing, Welfare and Disability Leave
A number of Stewards, (including Sarah Shahid, Alison Morton, Barbara Thompson and Anthea Tucker) have sat on sub-committees to address issues such as Bullying and Harassment, Wellbeing, Welfare and Disability Leave. New policies are being developed, as well as a statement on Domestic Violence, as a result of these sub-committees.
Being a Workplace Contact or Steward can provide additional opportunities for impact on the wider university, there are also opportunities to represent our Branch at conferences around the country, and opportunities to learn more about University policies and processes. We are keen to have more Stewards and Workplace Contacts.
As always we have been seeking to recruit new members throughout the year and recruitment has been steady, however, turnover at the University means we have lost members as they have left the University. We have participated in the university’s ‘welcome meetings’ to new staff, to promote the Branch and we are compiling lists of university staff in our bargaining group who are not members, and emailing them on a regular basis.
However, the best and most effective way of recruiting members is for you to talk to your colleagues and invite them to join us. It is vital that UNISON retains a strong membership – so please continue to encourage your colleagues and any new members of staff to join UNISON.
It seems clear that pressure on staff will continue to build, and so strong Trade Unions are more vital than ever.
There is also the other large part of our role, that of representing members, (in disciplinary matters, grievances, sickness-absence, capability, performance improvement, promotion appeals, re-gradings, attending hearings, etc). Providing advice and support is also a vital part of our work. So we would welcome more Stewards and Workplace reps. Full training is given and employers have to give reasonable time off work for union duties. Doing Casework and representing members is really rewarding, you can make a real difference and help people.
As you can see our workload has been massive, it has been an incredibly busy year with so many things coming at us it has been difficult to stay on top of it all. I would like thank the Regional office for the support they have provided through the Regional and Area Officers – Leonie, Sultan and Lorraine. Their input to the branch has been invaluable and we look forward to their continued support to enable the branch to go from strength to strength.
I feel with the Branch Exec, Branch Committee, Branch Administrator and the Regional support we have an excellent team to enable us to provide first class support for our members. And we always welcome new additions to the team.
There are plenty of opportunity to get involved, lifelong learning and education as well as supporting and representing members, and various opportunities to be part of the Branch Committee. If you feel you want to make a difference to your workplace and contribute to a positive change why don’t you step forward and get involved? The more active you are, the more effective your branch will be.
It has been a challenging year but I have really enjoyed it, has opened my eyes to UNISON and how active we are. I have learned a lot and developed news skills, and I look forward to working with you all again this year.