UPDATE – Fight de-recognition of UCU at Bournemouth University

Management at Bournemouth University have effectively de-recognised UCU, leaving 300 academic staff without representation. Shown below is the latest update from UCU. Please show your support by “liking” their Facebook Page – Fight de-recognition of UCU at Bournemouth University. Thank-you.

Back in September, UCU members at BU voted unanimously to seek authorisation for a ballot for industrial action if the employer did not restore timely and meaningful negotiation and consultation with UCU. Since then, our position has been endorsed by the Southern Regional Committee, the national joint standing committee on Equality, and the national Higher Education Committee. In November, UCU notified the employer that the dispute was now formal, and the first round of talks aimed at a resolution took place late last month.

The dispute centres on the fundamental principle that UCU has the right to table for consultation or negotiation, matters affecting members. That principle underpins the recognition agreement between the employer and UCU; it is that principle which the employer, in its refusal to negotiate or consult on a range of issues over the past year or so, has abandoned; and it is that principle which is upheld by employers at other institutions. Unless the employer accepts and upholds the principle of UCU autonomy, it cannot claim to observe the recognition agreement, and is thereby de-recognising this branch of UCU in all but name. In this time of uncertainty, the job security of our members is of paramount importance and a de-recognised trade union cannot provide effective representation for its members.

The employer’s position with regard to the recognition agreement and the collective disputes procedure (part of the recognition agreement governing issues where agreement cannot be reached) changes from one month to the next. On 24 September, the employer wrote to the branch chair: “In line with the recognition agreement that BU has with UCU, matters can and should be raised in accordance with the collective disputes procedure.”

On 23 January, the employer wrote to UCU: “We are keen to resolve these issues and would suggest that reviewing our recognition agreement in order to update our working relationship may be a way to take this forward.”

On 28 January, the UCU negotiating team met a negotiating team from the employer in the first talks aimed at resolving the dispute. During that meeting, the employer reaffirmed its commitment to the recognition agreement, and confirmed that the talks were taking place under the terms of the collective disputes procedure. We expect the second round of talks to take place later this month. But even before the date for that meeting has been agreed, the employer has restated its refusal to honour the recognition agreement, in even more emphatic terms than before. The employer emailed UCU on 6 February: “It remains our position that the specific matters you have raised are not subject to the recognition agreement, nor the collective disputes procedure.”

Quite apart from the fact that this amounts to an admission that the employer refuses to observe the recognition agreement itself, UCU regards this naked intransigence as unhelpful and contrary to the spirit of constructive negotiation. The employer claims to recognise UCU, but wants to review the recognition agreement; and wishes UCU to raise matters in accordance with the collective disputes procedure, but regards matters that UCU raises as not being subject to that procedure.

While the employer’s pronouncements about the recognition agreement change from month to month, it remains consistent in attacking your rights to representation. Members made it quite clear In September, and again at the recent branch meeting, that they are prepared to fight to defend those rights. It is only the credible threat of industrial action that brought the employer to the table last month, and it will only be that threat that will restore the trade union rights of members.