Rights and duties of management

27th June 1997 at 01:00
As the EIS members of Motherwell College teaching staff joint consultative committee, may we use your columns to refute Principal Richard Millham's "refutation" of "the union version of events" (TESS May 30), since his own account requires clarification and correction on so many points.

"The JCCs .....indicated that they have no difficulty with the structure". Our JCC has had every difficulty with the structure. That is why the dispute developed, because there was no proper consultation or negotiation with JCC or JNC. "Discussion" with the JCC at the end of 1996 consisted of illustrated lectures on the college's financial problems and the need to restructure; but when that process was unilaterally pushed through in the face of our expressed reservations about the lack of a clear plan or rationale, the EIS withdrew from this forum until management would agree to a third party intervention to set clear terms of reference.

"Full consultation and discussion has been taking place.....since last November, including staff meetings with the board ... himself and his depute. " Consultation and dicussion were never full; staff were kept in the dark about any overall plan, if such existed; staff meetings were fed vague, partial and confusing information, with key questions left answered, while management continued restructuring to their own agenda. During this period there was no meeting at all on the subject with the board of management, despite our repeated pleas for their intervention.

"There were only six applicants for the four posts." Our understanding is that of the 11 original team leaders nine went for the five new sector learning manager posts originally advertised (when one turned down the offer of a post, the sectors were reduced overnight to four). Two were appointed; the rest were invited to apply for lesser posts (when is "demotion" not demotion?), and after two took redundancyretirement terms in disgust, six of the original 11 were left at lower posts with lower wages.

The college claims it has not "disregarded college agreements and breached conservation rights". We obviously believe the conservation rights of these six were breached, but the issue is now with ACAS for arbritation.

"All staff appointments are made for a six month probationary period." They may well be, but it is news to us, and we have never seen the procedures for its implementation before.

"Agreements on class contact and evening work have not been torn up". Perhaps, but the more subtle and effective form of pressurised individual "requests" to work longer hours and twilight and evenings as part of your normal day has ensured that agreements on conditions are fraying round the edges.

The only point where we can agree with the principal is that " the person appointed to the fourth senior post was not from a college in England" He was a temporary appointment from a management consultancy in England, installed in a house in college grounds over one weekend, when management failed to appoint an internal candidate to the technology sector. The person appointed from a college in England without recognised advert, leeting or interview procedures was, in September 1995, the director of enterprise, whose remit has gradually expanded to now cover large areas of the curriculum.

We view the fact that ACAS has had to be brought into so many colleges lately to "bridge the gap" as evidence enough that there is indeed a new style of "macho managment", which has breached the basic good practices of industrial relations - to talk to your staff, to treat them as intelligent human beings, and to recognise that the success of your enterprise depends on them and their efforts, not on the empty rhetoric of "quality" and "mission" statements. "Management's right to manage" has taken precedence over "management's duty to its employees," and for the sake of the well-being of colleges and the students of the future, this must change.

Scott Aitken, Douglas Nicol, Martin Milligan, EIS members of Motherwell College teaching staff JCC

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