GMB accuses university bosses of trying to “cut out” unions in pensions dispute

The GMB has accused the University of South Wales of deliberately trying to circumvent unions in the on-going pension dispute.

Support staff employed by USW have recognition with major trade unions like GMB and Unison, but under the university’s proposed changes, new staff will be contracted into an arms-length private company set up by the university where no such recognitions exist.

NHS trusts have been using the same tactic by switching staff to sub-contracted companies (or ‘subcos’) in a move unions fear will affect workers’ pensions, pay and working conditions. In the USW case, as well as losing access to the Local Government Pension Scheme, workers would have also have no representation in negotiations with the university and potentially leave them unable to access other long situated terms and conditions.

GMB claim that this will lead to a two tier system of employees, where two people doing the same job could have different terms and conditions to their work. The changes at USW would affect workers joining departments such as IT, estates and the academic registry from August 2018.

GMB organiser Nicola Savage said: “We weren’t born yesterday; we can see that this is an attempt to cut back on the hard won rights of university staff. This arms-length company will start with no employee’s or trade union members. This means that the new staff hired will have no recognition agreement with trade unions and have no representation in pay negotiations.

“In effect this will create a two tier system where although the university state that current T&Cs will apply, in fact trade unions will have no ability to negotiate on new policies or any proposed changes. It’s a clear and deliberate attempt to cut us out of the picture.”

GMB political officer Mike Payne said: “This flies in the face of Welsh government policy of working together with trade unions and employers in social partnership, and also breaches the agreement reached between the HE Institutions and the Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams AM only last year.

“Too often we can see public sector employers setting up arms-length private companies to get out of giving their workers the terms and conditions that they should be receiving. It’s becoming endemic.

“There are big questions that we need to be answering, like in what circumstances should a public institution be allowed to set up a private company or is it ever appropriate. Let’s not forget that it’s funded by public money and we think that means they should be treated like other public sector staff in the institution.

“We’ve submitted a late motion to Welsh Labour Conference on this issue and we’re hopeful that the Welsh government will act to stop important Welsh institutions from behaving this way.”

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