The Crick Staff Forum: mode ON

Today I have learned two very important things: “The Wellcome Trust” is named after a person and not a noun (god bless my poor foreign grammar); and a company that wants to discharge 100 employees has 45 days to get its head around it.

These important yet distinct pieces of knowledge came from my ACAS training, at the Wellcome Trust. ACAS is an consultant organisation that provides “information, advice, training [and] conciliation […] for employers and employees to help prevent or resolve workplace problems”.

The ‘Wellcome Trust’ is the biggest UK biomedical charity, and it is spelled differently than ‘Welcome trust’ (this may deserve its own post).

What am I doing here?

A while ago The Crick Institute – the newly born organisation that assimilated the NIMR – decided it will consult with its employees via a ‘Representative Forum‘ rather than the already operating Unions. The “Crick Staff Forum” (CSF) is a table at which sits representatives of lab managers, PostDocs, administrators, etc… with the mandate to give a voice to problems that will raise in the notoriously complicated relationship between employees and employer. And to find better solutions to them.

what makes the perfect meeting

Although the initial idea was to democratically elect two PostDocs Reps from Mill Hill, a colleague of mine and I have been picked by “heads” of The Crick because unsurprisingly no one raised a hand at the call for nominees. Given I was already a PostDoc Committee’s member at NIMR, I was an easy victim. And persuasive ‘you-really-should-do-this-it-doesn’t-take-much-of-your-time’ arguments from the right people made ‘an offer I couldn’t refuse’.

So there I was, listening to a well prepared trainer about why the Forum is important, what are the dos and don’ts, and which scenarios we are likely to face. Excluded by the training were “the Managers”, subjects defined by the course as those who stay on the other side decision. The Directors.

Also PIs didn’t receive training, and PhD are just not included in the Forum as “educational duty” for the The Crick, not employees. Make perfectly sense, but I find it kinda pity.

With a change in the scale of involvement (The Crick has twice the employees than NIMR), and Unions out the game, I feel a higher responsibility for what is discussed at the Forum, and for what the PostDoc community at Mill Hill may expect from us. I also suspect the CSF will be a bit political to a certain level, an attitude to problems I am not accustom to.

One thing I certainly understood is that the CSF is not a place for negotiation. It is a room for consultation, a vague noun that expects to indicate:

“These are the options, which do you think we should take?”

… but still leaves ‘the Managers’ free to decide what to do.

With the first meeting due to the 19th of June – announced to be little more than ‘around the table’ introductions – I really hope the Forum to be quickconstructive and efficient. I am confident the same attitude will be present at other side of the table.

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