University row with porters intensifies after University’s ‘union-busting’ tactics

The row between the University and its porters over contract changes has intensified, following the use of what Unsion describe as “union-busting tactics” by the University.

University officials have refused to enter collective negotiations with staff through their union, following the refusal of almost half the portering and security workforce to sign their new contracts, preferring to meet with staff individually.

Speaking to the York Press last week, Phil Booth, Unison Regional Officer, said the union had reluctantly agreed to individual meetings, but said there was strong support among the workforce for industrial action. He said: “It’s clearly hotting up now. Management are playing hardball.”

Despite this, a University spokesman recently said “Our door is always open to Unison and the University has a good relationship with all recognised trade unions.

“Some individuals have expressed concerns about the new arrangements and by meeting on a one-to-one basis, we have sought to find out whether we can accommodate those concerns. The University requested that Unison representatives attend those meetings, even though the union initially advised their members against attending.”

The dispute surrounds changes being introduced under the Framework Agreement, a grading and pay structure which includes changes to employees’ contracts, which Unison says will lead to a “complete change in lifestyle”. Most controversial is a flexibility clause which compels porters and security staff to work varying shifts between different colleges.

Of roughly 50 porters and security staff, 22 have refused to sign the new contracts. The deadline for doing so has been put back from November 19 to December 17.

Of this, a University spokesman said “The University believes that this issue affects a maximum of 22 employees out of a workforce of 750 in the Directorate of Facilities Management. The proposals set out in the Framework Agreement have been accepted by the vast majority of staff.”

By Heidi Blake

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