12th Apr, 2021

Victory for protesters in Coventry University 'sham union' dispute

Felix Nobes 18th May, 2018 Updated: 20th May, 2018

THERE was victory for protesters as official recognition was granted to the universities union by Coventry University following widespread condemnation and a staff pay and conditions dispute.

The Coventry University Group (CUG) – a subsidiary company of the university – will now allow the University and College Union (UCU) to represent staff employed by the group’s CU campuses after weeks of collective action and strikes against a so-called ‘sham union’.

At a meeting yesterday, both sides reached an agreement in principle to grant the UCU ‘voluntary recognition’.

This will allow UCU to formally represent academic staff at the CU group on key issues including pay and working conditions.

As we reported, the UCU claimed the CUG exploited a legal loophole and set up a ‘sham’ trade union – the Staff Consultative Group.

The CUG signed a recognition agreement for it to represent staff – denying them official UCU representation.

The union and employer have issued a joint statement welcoming the development as a ‘positive outcome’ and confirming further details will be finalised in the coming weeks.

It said: “Members of the CUG leadership team met with the UCU on Thursday, May 17 to discuss trade union recognition at the group’s three CU campuses – CU Coventry, CU Scarborough and CU London.

“Following constructive discussions, we have an agreement in principle for voluntary recognition of UCU as a trade union for academic staff at the CU campuses, working alongside the Staff Consultative Group and others.

“Further details will be finalised in the coming weeks.

“We are pleased that this presents a positive outcome for colleagues in this group of campuses and look forward to confirming the next steps.”

Following condemnation from union chiefs, MPs, councillors and university officials – and two high-profile demonstrations in the city – staff seeking representation from the UCU in their staff conditions and pay dispute finally have it.

As we revealed last month, figures obtained by the Coventry UCU show inferior pay and pension schemes and often longer working hours for staff at the CUG.

It appeared dialogue had broken down following strikes with the university claiming the UCU had ‘reneged’ on its commitment for calm negotiations.

But the UCU claimed there was little need for negotiations and said the dispute could end once the UCU was recognised as the official union of the CUG – in line with staff ‘statutory rights’.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “I’m pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement that grants academic staff at the CU campuses the union recognition they have campaigned so long for.

“We hope that this will be the start of constructive industrial relations in those campuses and we thank everyone who has supported this campaign from the start.”

There was notable criticism from city MP Jim Cunningham who submitted an early day motion to parliament to debate the creation of the ‘sham union’.

Letters of objection were sent by prominent city councillor John Mutton, Erdington MP Jack Dromey and high-ranking officials and staff from other universities.

Over 10,000 people signed a petition named ‘Stop the anti-union dirty tricks in the Coventry University Group’.

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