We hope that members have been able to sign up for one of the open briefing sessions on the Professional Services Operating Model: https://portal.shu.ac.uk/Pages/AllNews.aspx#237. If you haven’t please let the Branch know, to help us make the case for more sessions.
UNISON has received formal notification that consultation on proposals for the future shape of professional services is beginning, and so it is crucial that there is full engagement with the open meetings.
At this point UNISON has several concerns.
First of all, although many people have been involved with the PSOM project in various ways, many others have not – and we now need to ensure that everyone has an opportunity and adequate time to participate in the consultation.
Secondly, management have said they are committed to genuine and meaningful consultation. We believe that this means sufficient detail must be available to enable us to understand what is being proposed – not just structures, but also how services will be delivered, and whether there are any proposed changes to terms and conditions, and what they mean. Without sufficient detail we will not be able to assess whether the principles of the PSOM are being properly applied in the interests of students and the University, or whether cost-cutting has become the primary driver. It is acknowledged that the PSOM project has still not completed its work, and that consultation will happen in stages, but that adds complexities which need careful planning and clear and transparent communication.
At this point we are not yet reassured that the necessary information will be published, but we are working to ensure that it is.
Linked to this is the point that the timescales that are planned are ambitiously fast. But a large and complex group of staff and services need to be handled with care if serious mistakes are to be avoided. It cannot be done at breakneck pace.
Thirdly, management have denied that there are any arbitrary targets for job losses, but we do know that it is envisaged that professional services will be “smaller” – this has been stated in public and in writing (for example, in Richard Calvert’s recent message). In any case there are agreed commitments to avoid compulsory redundancies, and UNISON will want to ensure that we stick to them – but this also means making sure that staff are prepared and supported, and that the sequencing of any changes does not shut anyone out.
Finally, I envisage that we will need to hold some open meetings for members to discuss the PSOM consultation, among other activities. We will keep you informed as things develop, and will also be working alongside our colleagues in other unions. And please, ensure that your local steward or the Branch is made aware of any issues in your area – and talk to your colleagues about the importance of joining a strong union.
Dan J Bye
UNISON Branch Secretary