In the run up to Christmas 2020, the Students’ Union launched a consultation on proposals to restructure the organisation and cut staff numbers. 40% of Students’ Union staff were formally placed “at risk”. The proposals could not have come at a worse time for our members, already feeling demoralised and facing an uncertain future in extremely tough times.
UNISON, with the assistance of UNISON regional staff, supported members to put forward alternative proposals, launched a petition and passed a vote of no confidence. Newspaper coverage of the campaign was secured. Following the work of members, Region, the Branch and SU stewards Demaine Boocock and (albeit briefly) Jemma Dalton, the consultation was extended and the implementation ended up being delayed until the end of April. The redundancy offer, initially only the statutory minimum, was improved, pay protection was agreed and other concessions were made. Some of our alternative suggestions were accepted by SU management, which helped protect jobs.
Although UNISON achieved a number of successes, lockdown made engaging with students much harder and it is disappointing that in the end the decision to close the Students Union bar and most other commercial activities was confirmed. Five UNISON members were among those who already left have or will be leaving the SU.
UNISON has already met with SU members to discuss next steps. We intend to hold SU management to account for the fallout from the restructure, and demand action to address the poor staff morale that was revealed by the belated release of the results of a staff survey conducted in 2019. We are also drawing up a list of workplace issues we want to see addressed, and will be meeting with SU leadership to take this agenda forward.