This is an update on our initial statement from 24 November 2022 announcing a dispute with UVW.
UWU members are disappointed to report that the recent consultation meetings between them as UVW staff and their employer, UVW’s elected leadership, confirmed UVW’s commitment to issuing redundancies at the end of this week.
A genuine and meaningful consultation?
UWU members requested a 30-day consultation period so that they could genuinely and meaningfully consult with the employer on ideas to avoid redundancies and ensure the best possible support continues for UVW members. Despite this, the process has seemingly already ended. UWU members raised concerns about the decision to use the UVW strike fund to meet the employer’s obligation to pay staff wages and proposed a range of short-term and long-term solutions such as pursuing new sources of funding, reviewing member subscription rates and adopting a different staffing structure. UWU members also proposed a reduction to the number of compulsory redundancies considering the significant uptake of voluntary redundancy however, the employer rejected this with little feedback. The employer has yet to offer all staff individual consultation meetings, creating uncertainty throughout the process.
Transparency and accountability
When UWU members requested the employer to be transparent with the UVW membership about the financial situation, they were told if they spoke to members, they would face disciplinary action and could be summarily dismissed. We understand that there will be an investigation into the cause of the financial crisis and we expect this to be genuinely independent.
Dignity at work
UWU members have also become increasingly concerned about the behaviour of some members of UVW’s leadership during consultation meetings. For example, during a collective consultation meeting, one of our branch members was personally challenged on their work performance and described as “like talking to a rock” by the employer. UWU’s position on this is clear: such behaviour is wholly unacceptable, it undermines the employer’s claim about a providing a meaningful consultation and our member has yet to even receive an apology.
Standing up for UVW members
UWU members have been told that various aspects of UVW work are now no longer considered strategically relevant in the new staff structure. Caseworkers are no longer part of UVW’s strategy and will be subsumed by the Organising Team. The Tribunal Team will be replaced with a part time Case Manager because “tribunal work does not recruit or retain members”. UWU members are shocked and deeply disappointed by this perceived lack of value and respect for the work we do and expected more from a trade union employer – to hold itself to its own values. Staff have gone above and beyond for UVW members, often working beyond hours with a core passion and dedication to the movement. UWU members are being forced to pay the price of losing their jobs, to pay for a crisis they did not cause.
UWU members have asked about how the new structure will function in practice and are concerned that there is little in place to prepare for the new structure operating and delivering for UVW members. Staff were told they have veered away from the mission of UVW, which appeared to gloss over the fact that this has all happened under the current leadership.
UWU members have tried their utmost to mitigate against the impact of the financial crisis on UVW members. UWU members are calling on UVW members to demand a full, independent investigation into this crisis and for accountability of those elected to hold responsibility. Regardless of the outcome, UWU members will continue to expect their trade union employer to hold itself to the standards it sets for all employers both now and in the future.