Union shutout is a cause for concern

June 5, 2014

I read with considerable disquiet the letter from Sir David Bell, the vice-chancellor of the University of Reading (“Forum for the Future”, Letters, 29 May).

Vice-chancellors do, of course, need to communicate directly with all the staff, but that is no reason for derecognising union representation. The two communications could operate in parallel. The wider considerations are: who will represent staff in personal cases with proper legal advice? Who will negotiate in the wider context for the protection of terms and conditions of service; and will the university recognise such determination of terms and conditions and salaries negotiated between the unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association? What does derecognition mean for the broad context of the remuneration of labour, which has diminished rapidly over the past 30 years as unions have been hamstrung and terms and conditions consequently eroded? Will those staff who do not belong to a union forfeit their salary increase of 2 per cent by donating it to a charity?

The protection of terms and conditions of service demands greater union participation. The low density in one higher education institute is not a reason for abrogating union representation there, because the wider context requires reinforcement of union activity. By all means have direct communication with staff, but do not remove union representation.

Dave Postles
Retired; formerly Association of University Teachers/University and College Union, now Unite associate member


We are in the dead-hand grip of the management consultants. The senior management at the University of Reading seems determined to pour money into the consultants’ coffers in return for “support and advice”. I have no doubt that the people providing this support and advice are clever; however, their first report, trumpeted as the vision for our future, could neatly be summed up in two words: “vacuous bollocks”.

The effort to centralise all support services can only end in disaster. This has been the case in every other institution that has gone down this route. Management will preen (and reward) themselves on the back of the money saved, ignoring the fact that this is at the expense of the academic staff.

Take one specific example, the support of specialist software in schools of engineering. Centralised IT staff have neither the time nor the expertise to provide the necessary support, but this is covered up by academic staff who need to keep labs running and so do the work for them. Management will see the student experience preserved, and will be wholly ignorant of the untold extra effort needed to cover up for the “efficient” provision of support services.

Name and address withheld

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