I work in an FE college which has a very autocratic management which operates by bullying, intimidation and isolation.  No unions are recognised and new members of staff are given the impression that they may not join a union.  But...  There is a rising level of dissatisfaction and discontent, connected to the idea that people may like to talk and do something about it (mainstream union membership is actually on the rise).

Recently a ‘request’ came down from senior management to a certain group of staff that they must consider themselves to be on call on demand.  This was justified as coming under that lovely catch all contractual phrase “any other duty necessary to the fulfilment of your role.”

Needless to say, those involved were not happy about this (me being one of them).  After some co-ordinated discussions with those involved, it was quickly agreed that we would not comply with the request.  The first to refuse received a response which threatened their position and wage (the typical response).  By the time a higher proportion had refused it became simply a comment regarding the ‘co-ordinated response’ (some staff sent identically worded replies.)  Finally, all had replied negatively. Nothing has happened, the request appears to have been dropped.

This may seem to be a minor event, but within the culture of the college it is hugely significant.  The general feeling amongst staff is that it is impossible to say NO to management if you wish to keep your job.  This case proves otherwise.  Also, the management thrives on the fact that the staff are fragmented – it is difficult to communicate between departments, and fearful.  But in this case, people from different departments came together and acted together, successfully defying the management’s overbearing demand.

As news of this spreads, so does the realisation that it may after all be possible to fight against some of the appalling ways in which the management treats the staff.

Watch this space, as they say.

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