Wednesday, 8 May 2013

"Horse whipping cart... cart pushing man...

'Project Focus'

I like the Dutch band Focus. Their 1971 album Focus II is a bit of a classic. As I yodelled my way through  'Sylvia' off their eponymous third opus, I pondered over the most recent nom de possible sackings as reported in the Manchester Evening News and the Times Higher, I made a corporate decision. As the contents of the document are in the public domain, I concurred with me that it's most definitely in the public interest that a chap publishes this document in its entirety. Staff, students and the public have a right to know.

Oh dear...

Project Axeroom?

UCU regional official Martyn Moss is quoted as saying that:

“The University of Salford already has the unenviable tag as Britain’s most prolific university for axing staff...  This damaging memo paints the university in a callous and uncaring light. It appears to have no regard for either its hardworking [sic] staff or students making potentially the biggest decisions of their lives. We are really disappointed the university has ignored the unions and pursued such a damaging approach.”

Tu t'es fait virer, toi? 

The article in the Times Higher goes on to quote a section of the document:

"Under a heading of risk, the document says of the unions: “Strike action a high possibility. Will certainly fan the flames via the media.”

The question has to be asked, is the above a realistic appraisal? Is strike action up there in the gods in the list of possibilities? Let's consider the evidence. The THE reports that this is the TWELFTH round of job cuts in eighteen months. Now according to my GCSE in maths and some corner-of-penis calculations, the Salford branch of the UCU has engaged in ONE day of strike action in response to this local 'jobs slaughter' over the last EIGHTEEN months. It's an encouraging start. I decided to develop my mathematical skill set further. Could the the prospect of Ms Sheehy leading 'the troops' over the barricades be easily increased by a ratio of 2:1 thereby inversely raising the disproportionately of lacklustre strike action from 0.055 (1/18) of a day of strike action for a single month to the almost unheard of heights of 0.111(2/18) to two days in eighteen months? Moreover, did my calculations and the threat of another SINGULAR day of strike action have the potential to imbue across seignorial gussets the human equivalent of 'dog bottom' or at least 'leafy Autumn camouflage'? I wasn't sure.

Will Hall's Saxon shield wall
hold or will he resign?

The cloth according to cutly

The previous Graves-Hall strategy of improving the student experience by spending vast sums on new prestigious buildings is clearly not having the desired outcome. Having been a student and knocked around with many thousands of them at Salford in the past, as well as having taught a good few, when asked what they want, the standard reply was smaller lecture groups, smaller tuition groups, investment in better libraries including more staff and more books. They'd also make the outrageous demand for more one-on-one time between tutors and students. I don't recall a single student ever saying to me "Duke you hair-faced buffoon, we clearly need more quality one-on-one time with consultants, a fully stocked wet room for senior managers, and regular refits of the Ole Fire station with concomitant chauffeur-driven cars." It's not rocket science.

We do have victories sometimes you know?

Sometimes it appears that your employer has all the cards stacked in his favour. When a group of workers face bullying and the threat of redundancies as well as having the Angel of D'eath pass regularly over their thresholds, it can be rather demoralising. It can readily imbue within a group of workers the idea that their bosses are hegemonic and that they'll always win. I mused for the moment on the manner in which I had without any support whatsoever from my own union, fought back over three long years against Hall, Graves* and the Chair of University Council Alan Mawson. Between them, according to a report in the Manchester Evening News, they decided to bypass the University Council and launch an expensive libel action using University money, 'something the institution now accepts was wrong'. It was expensive, costing somewhere in the region of £150,000 to stifle criticism of er... Hall and Graves. The strategy of filling lawyers mouths with gold (caution libel lawyers it's meant to be an euphemism) and choosing the terrain of England's libel courts to mount their attack disastrously backfired. Their ill-conceived and ill-advised case was thrown out at a preliminary stage by possibly the most eminent libel judge in the country. They had no case. In short I won.

The thinking chap

But the above got me to thinking, which as regular readers of this blog will know is nearly always a bad thing. Firstly, will Hall, Graves and Mawson now reimburse the money they spent on their libel claim to the University prior to announcing further job cuts?  And lastly, if I could beat them, surely a well-funded union branch at Salford could rally its members to give Hall et al another bloody nose? They could firstly refuse to negotiate about any matter to do with jobs or anything else with Executive Head of HR Keith Watkinson. They could do this because he admitted that he made up allegations that I had sexually harassed and criminally stalked a female member of staff, to gain access to my work computer, emails and file store in 2009. He admitted he did this on oath in my employment tribunal in 2011. It's not the sort of behaviour we should expect from someone negotiating over peoples' jobs and futures. The President of the UCU has had this information for some time yet has, as far as I'm aware, not acted upon it. Apart from a disciplinary investigation to be initiated by Hall against Watkinson over this serious matter, I still await a full apology from Martin Hall for Watkinson's libel against me and the stress it caused my family and myself. Hall should do the honourable thing. He should resign.

Apologise for  alleging you're a sexual harasser and criminal
stalker and therefore damaging your reputation?
Never you vile cur!
A glimmer of hope?

Feeling optimistic, I read the invitation to UCU members to attend the 'Protect the Front Line' meeting scheduled for 8th May 2013 at 12:45. Yes, the email appeared steep'd in the heady aplomb more usually associated with a car factory in the West Midlands in the 1970s. It reeked of confidence. Even the most demure statistical obscurantist with a penchant for underestimation would feel the need to lay out at least £12.99 on a bottle of Aldi's bubble-imbued finest as the UCU begin at last their long campaign to roll back the "damaging approach" of the University.

What did it for me was the heavy irony that permeated the final sentence: 'A light lunch will be provided'. I breathed a sigh of relief, content that my union and jobs of many former colleagues were in safe hands.

Notes and Resources

* Where is Dr Graves now? If any person wishes to further a cause and provide any evidence as to the whereabouts and details surrounding Dr Graves continuing lack of presence at the University of Salford, please feel free to send to the email address below. As usual, all sources of information (names) will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Author's request: If Martin Hall would like to supply this author with his revised Strategic Vision or Strategic Plan, we'd be happy to explore it over the coming weeks in the lead up to the 'controversial announcement' on June 5th. 

Author's second request: If Martin Hall would like to supply an apology for the actions and defamatory allegations made by Keith Watkinson, I'd be more than happy to publish such apology on this blog!

Usual disclaimer: This work is and expression of opinion on a matter of public interest and contains the opinions of the author. It is intended to report current events that are of public interest and public concern. The reproduction and use of any documents, photos and video images herein is to provide humour and accuracy in order to avoid civil litigation and claims of misquoting. In reporting current events they are used within the context of Fair Dealing or Fair Use. The author is happy to provide further acknowledgement if requested (email below). The author also suggests that before embarking upon expensive civil actions for libel, contact the author. We have reams of documentary evidence which we are happy to provide. A right of reply also operates. We are also happy to make corrections and if necessary provide an apology. Email