Victory at Nottingham Trent
WORKERS, JANUARY 2009 ISSUE
University and College Union (UCU) members at Nottingham Trent University were able to celebrate an end-of-term victory in December for their branch and for trade unionism.
As Workers readers will know, back in the summer Nottingham Trent University formally announced they were derecognising the UCU, in a direct attack on independent trade unionism on the campus. The university had been attempting to rewrite the recognition agreement, proposing a set of radically inferior arrangements that would see the campus unions marginalised in favour of a “consultation and information forum” that would include non-union representation, while facility time for reps would be cut by a staggering 80 per cent.
UCU members at Nottingham responded with a fight that was locally strong but also involved communication across the whole national union and to other trade unions. This included a successful one-day strike on 21 October that drew cross-country support. But the management were still reluctant to negotiate with the union.
Following the strike, the national executive of the UCU agreed to implement greylisting, the most serious sanction available to the union, on 1 December. This action would have included asking lecturers not to apply for jobs at Nottingham Trent University, not to act as external examiners, etc. As the local branch and the national union had done an excellent job of keeping Nottingham Trent’s name in the headlines and in emails directly to union members, this proposed action was well understood nationally and even internationally. It is a type of action that needs good understanding and discipline to be successful.
After a series of negotiations lasting late into the night the UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, was able to email all union members on December 4 (within 3 days of the start of the greylisting action) to report that management had withdrawn the threat of derecognition. In addition the negotiators had agreed trade union facility time at Nottingham Trent in line with good practice in the higher education sector. Also the union had faced down an attempt to give what the university termed “employee reps” a role in our collective bargaining process. And the UCU had significantly improved on the management’s proposals for changes to the consultative and negotiating forums.
Consequently, the calls for the greylisting of the university were suspended with immediate effect. The local committee points out that there is a lot of detail still to be finalised and the union is expecting further challenges. Since the dispute started 60 new members have joined the UCU branch at Nottingham Trent.