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Staff reps say they have been sidelined by UCPH management

Co-involvement — A meeting in the staff-management co-ordinating body HSU has not done anything to allay concerns about the upcoming administration reform among staff representatives. Staff at the University of Copenhagen feel ignored and patronized, and want more answers from management.

Participants were tense before the 25 April meeting of the staff-management co-ordinating committee (HSU) at the University of Copenhagen.

On the agenda was management’s proposal for the upcoming administration reform, which means that the University of Copenhagen will cut DKK 300 million annually on administrative costs and abolish 380 technical and administrative full-time equivalent staff.

READ ALSO: Overview: This is how the administration reform will hit staff

The meeting was one of several consultations in the HSU before the UCPH governing board is to decide on the final proposal on 19 June.

I don’t feel that they have listened a lot to our concerns

Henriette Lerche, representative for laboratory technicians and HSU member

The University Post spoke to two of the staff representatives who participated. They both say that they turned up with a number of questions which were not answered to their satisfaction. And the meeting failed to alleviate their concerns about parts of the upcoming reform.

»I’m concerned that the Board does not even understand what a huge change this really is, and what it will mean for the reliable operation of the future administration in the future, something that management constantly talks about,« says Ingrid Kryhlmand, HK union representative and deputy chair of the HSU.

According to her, the UCPH management’s reform outline is »full of holes«, »unspecific«, and »lacking in substance.«

»We need, in particular, an answer on what tasks will no longer be carried out if we want to cut staff costs by DKK 300 million. But we did not get that answer at the meeting. It’s just bland, cloud cuckoo land, banalities about task reorganisation and that you should avoid the duplication of work and stuff like that,« says Ingrid Kryhlmand.

The deputy chairman says that when the staff representatives at the HSU meeting asked in-depth questions about the things that were ambiguous in the draft, and their concerns, management just went on repeat with the response that this had been noted.

READ ALSO: Director after staff criticism: »We do not always agree, but it is a constructive dialogue«

She does not, therefore, foresee any significant changes in the management’s draft as it has been presented.

»I don’t think they will change more than a comma or two in the proposal. Management has settled in on this approach,« she says.

The University Post has interviewed University Director Søren Munk Skydsgaard. He said here that the collaboration with HSU was both good and constructive.

»We don’t always agree on everything, but it’s a constructive dialogue, and it helps us make our arguments stronger,« says Søren Munk Skydsgaard.

Naïve and slightly annoying employees

The concerns are shared by Henriette Lerche, an HSU member and staff representative for the university’s laboratory technicians.

She says that the HSU meeting has not reassured her. And she also fears that there will be only minor changes in the management’s outline. Especially if you consider that the Board’s final decision is less than two months away.

I’m worried that the Board has not even understood what a huge change this really is

HSU deputy-chair and staff representative Ingrid Kryhlmand

»I don’t get the feeling that they listen a lot to our concerns. I kind of expected that they would, or at least had hoped that they would. So I don’t think there will be many changes to the current draft, says Henriette Lerche.

She still needs answers as to what tasks should be where. Which tasks should be done at the department level? And which should be dealt with within the new three administrative centres, she asks.

»I had expected that there would have been more clarity about this by now. But when we ask about it, management replies that it can only be finally decided after the Board has approved the plan,« says Henriette Lerche.

She left Thursday’s meeting therefore with a feeling that management expects that staff will unreservedly have trust in them having things under control.

»When we say that we actually really want to see the details because they are important to us, we are perceived as slightly annoying and a bit naïve. At least that was my own personal feeling,« says Henriette Lerche.

Future of the University Post up for discussion

One of the criticisms that Ingrid Kryhlmand took up with management at the HSU meeting is about the future of the University Post, she says.

In appendix number four to the submitted proposal for the administration reform, it mentions a small saving by closing down the University Post’s public domain, and moving its web domain behind the firewalled UCPH intranet. At the same time, UCPH management wants to cut the semi-annual physical publication of the Danish-language Uniavisen magazine.

»I am very concerned about this, and it is a way of curtailing employees’ freedom of speech. We need the University Post at UCPH, and the HSU showed this in 2008 when there was a debate over the reorganisation of the Danish-language version of the University Post – HSU chose to walk out to show their dissatisfaction,« says Ingrid Kryhlmand.

Two more meetings of the HSU committee are scheduled before the Board’s final decision on the administration reform: 15 and 30 May.

It is to curtail employees’ freedom of speech

HSU deputy-chair and staff representative Ingrid Kryhlmand

The staff representatives have asked for a risk assessment of whether it will be possible at all to deliver the administration that is requested by both academic staff and students if the reform is implemented.

»The rector has promised that this will be looked into,« says Ingrid Kryhlmand.

She hopes that more of the staff representatives’ concerns will be addressed in a revised outline that may be presented at the next HSU meeting.

As deputy-chair of the HSU, Ingrid Kryhlmand sees many colleagues who are both concerned about the reform, and uncertain about their future work.

»I am really concerned on behalf of my colleagues. What’s more, I’m concerned that the entire environment at both departments and faculties will collapse, because a well-functioning administration is a necessity for things to run smoothly. And in the end, this will also affect the academic staff and students«.