6th Dec, 2016

Coventry University accused of 'shameful employment practices' by UCU

Shaun Reynolds 28th Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

COVENTRY University has been accused of employing shameful employment practices to avoid having to deal with trade unions or give staff a fair deal.

The University owns a series of companies which it uses to employ its staff – these companies have refused to recognise the University and College Union (UCU) to represent their employees.

The UCU provides vital protection to employees of the university and allows them to access help and negotiate wages.

Allegations have been written by the UCU to Coventry University condemning the actions of CU Services Ltd, the University’s subsidiary company.

The revelation comes just weeks after staff at CU Services Ltd won their long-running battle for union recognition – voting 100 per cent on a 73 per cent turnout.

And now staff have been told if they want to continue with their work at the university, they will have to register as agency workers with a company named ‘TheFutureWorks’.

An Observer source who works at the University, teaching English to international students that choose to study at Coventry University, has said he’s extremely annoyed about how he has been treated by the university.

Our source said: “Under current circumstances I’m powerless, next week I could be jobless.

“A democratic right has been taken away from us – we’re facing precarious contracts.

“I have a partner and a house, I have responsibilities and right now I’m living with no security regarding my job – it’s not fair.

“The situation came out of nowhere – I was notified out of the blue by email.

“The students we teach have the minimum language level required to study so the service we provide is crucial to the university.”

The UCU is now calling on CU Services Ltd to immediately reverse the decision and for the university to engage constructively with UCU to negotiate recognition at all its education subsidiary companies.

The University has insisted its subsidiary companies are autonomous and make their own decisions – despite the companies only having one shareholder, the university.

Our source added: “It’s important we have union representation as the union gives me access to help.

“By being signed up to the union I can negotiate my wages, terms and conditions while also having a say in how the company works.

“We’re all professionals and to be in this job you have to highly qualified and have experience.

“We’ve fought hard for union recognition and we want to keep that status.

“It’s important we have a say in what we’re doing as the union offers us more protection.

“The University has a commitment to be fair to those it employs, you can’t just brush us aside and expect to work under these conditions.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the actions of Coventry University’s subsidiary company are an embarrassment to the sector.

She added: “CU Services Ltd must immediately reverse its decision and Coventry University needs to stop hiding behind the so-called autonomy of its companies and start to constructively engage with UCU at all its education subsidiaries.

“Students and the wider public who contribute so much to our universities deserve to know what is happening to the hard-working staff who teach them.

“For our part, UCU will continue its fight to ensure that everyone teaching at Coventry University and its subsidiaries has the same right to union recognition.”

Coventry University however deny that staff members have been sacked and added the new contracts have improved terms.

A statement reads: “The movement of some staff members’ contracts across the university group is an ongoing process.

“Like many organisations, we’re having to find new ways to be more flexible and sustainable in order to deliver more high quality teaching and learning here and overseas.

“Our pre-sessional English teaching services are a part of that evolving provision.”