Correspondence: Unison members – intimidation

From: Denise Knutsen <Denise.Knutson@brighton-hove.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: UNISON- URGENT
Date: 7 May 2014 21:32:37 BST
Dear UNISON Members

Please see text below, this has been sent to all Governors and the Head tonight, it has also been copied to the Leader of the Council and politicians.

Warm Regards
Denise

Dear Mr Trimmer,

I am being made aware today by a large number of UNISON members at Hove Park School, that support staff are being, and I quote “invited to a “confidential” chat with a member of SLT, with no notice. Staff have been asked whether they are for, against, or unsure about Academy status – all forms had separate tick boxes. I was told that this process had been organised by Derek and The Governors and would be fed back to them. A lot of staff feel uncomfortable and intimidated about this approach”.

I agree with my members that this is intimidation, and I insist that this activity ceases with immediate effect.

I am advising all UNISON members, tonight, that they should refuse to attend such meetings. If you, or your management Team then “instruct” them to attend, that they do so, but formally request that the meeting is postponed until they can have a UNISON representative present. If you, or your representative continue to insist the meeting continues, then they should listen, but make no response, other than the usual pleasantries.

Further to the above, you should note that I am copying this email to all interested parties, including Governors, politicians, the media, and my own organisation. The reason for doing this, is that I consider your actions to be deliberately provocative in the midst of a situation that is very sensitive, and at a point where you are well aware that UNISON is conducting an indicative ballot. You are directly seeking to influence the outcome of that democratic process. However, you may describe these “meetings”, they certainly do not constitute consultation, in any true sense of that word.

You should also note that each and every member of Support Staff at Hove Park School, has a contract of employment, that states their employer is Brighton and Hove City Council. In effect you are acting on behalf of that employer, and you should consider the legal ramifications of your current role. In plain English, if you persist in your actions then any dispute with UNISON, will be with BHCC, and my Branch will begin an employer wide ballot process.

Bluntly, you (and, apparently, the School Governors) can either draw back from your underhand, and unfair approach, or this matter will escalate quite dramatically.

I will expect your response when convenient.

Yours Sincerely,

Alex Knutsen
Branch Secretary.
Denise Knutsen
UNISON Branch Officer for Schools

Note from Denise Knutsen, Unison, on 17th May: “I have had no response, from Mr Trimmer, or anyone else. I raised it with all 3 political parties at an employer – Trade Union meeting on Monday last, and they “avoided” any meaningful comment. My key point that I put to them, is that although the Support Staff in the school, are appointed by the Head/management, all contracts have BHCC as the employer, and therefore the legal position is that the Council have as much, possibly more, responsibility to investigate allegations (7 of these, to date) that come direct from our members. There appears to be a marked reluctance to get involved. I will, of course, be taking this (much) further!”

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