Meeting with UNISON and other unions representing University Support Staff

Labour Party

There are times in my job as an MEP when I get to do something very different from the normal run of European Parliament Committees, Socialist and Democrat Group meetings and voting in plenary sessions.

Today was one of these times.  I was pleased to attend a joint trade union meeting this afternoon to discuss representation of university support staff.  In most universities there are as many employees who carry administrative duties, work in libraries and as laboratory and other kinds of technicians, provide information and computer support and do all the essential jobs in catering, building management and security and cleaning as there are academic staff.

Unfortunately these support staff do not always get the recognition they deserve.  The joint trade union meeting today, attended by UNISON, the SIPTU from Ireland and the Danish organisation HK/Stat looked at the main issues of concern.

Chaired by Danish socialist MEP Britta Thomsen, the meeting proved wide ranging in both content and geographical scope.  The other two MEPs who attended, in addition to myself, were fellow EPLP member Derek Vaughan from Wales and  Irish Labour Party stalwart Proinsias De Rossa.         

The unions present were:

UNISON, England – Derek Earnshaw, Leeds University and Jon Richards, UNISON

SIPTU, Ireland – Jack McGinley, Trinity College Dublin and Christine Rowland, SIPTU

HK/Stat, Denmark – Aase Pedersen Rakkolainen, University of Aarhus, Joan Lykkeaa, University of Copenhagen and Hans-Henrik Nielsen, HK/Stat

Also from Denmark were representatives from the AC-group, (Academic-group) – John S. Westensee, University of Aarhus, Signe Osbahr, University of Aarhus, Arne Bækdal Hansen, University of Southern Denmark, Harry Havskum, University of Copenhagen, Poul Petersen, University of Copenhagen and Lone Falsig Hansen,  Danish Technical University

One of the unions’ aims is to establish a European network and they are seeking funding for this initiative.  They also want support staff included in bids to the EU Research Framework Programme as well as mobility for support staff in addition to academics and students under the Bologna Process.

It was agreed that the union would contact the two relevant Commissioners-Designate, Marie Geoghegan-Quinn from Ireland who will be responsible for Research and Innovation and Hungarian Lazlo Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), as soon as possible after the confirmation vote on 9 February. 

 It goes without saying that I, and my ME¨P colleagues, will do all we can to be of assistance.


Labour Party

The European Parliamentary Labour Party (EPLP), the Labour MEPs, held our AGM today. Unsurprsingly it was a subdued affair, with all of us feeling the loss of respected colleagues. All credit to Richard Corbett, Glyn Ford and Neena Gill who all came to the AGM, as they are entitled to do. I know I speak for all the EPLP when I wish them the very best and hope they are given useful and gainful employment.

We did, of course, have one newcomer, Derek Vaughan from Wales. Welcome to Derek – hope you enjoy your time in the European Parliament.

The EPLP Officers are:

Leader Glenis Willmott

Deputy Leader Claude Moraes

Chair Richard Howitt

Whip Brian Simpson

Good luck to all of them. We have not as yet made any decisions about Committee membership or posts in the European Parliament. This will happen when we go back to Brussels towards the end of June.

The meeting was addressed by the new Minister for Europe, Baroness Glenys Kinnock, a former colleague, and the first Europe Minister for a very long time who understands Europe and is qualified to do the Ministerial job.

Harriet Harman followed Glenys and received universal acclamation for her role in the European election campaign and the way she handled the sorry saga of MPs expenses in the media.

We, as Labour MEPs, now have to do the very best job we can in Europe and work hard to take the European message out to the country at large. This is where we start out fight to bring home the relevance and the benefits of Europe to the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that the European cause has been put back some long way by the results announced on Sunday. But this is no time to give up, and I know all my EPLP colleagues will do their level best for Britain and for the Europe.