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(13 Posts)
TheSmallClanger Wed 15-Oct-08 17:54:26

My workplace is under new management and they are trying to re-introduce staff uniforms. A while back, we decided to get rid of them for a number of reasons and there has been no complaint from any of the staff members.
I work at an agricultural college (FE) teaching a practical outdoor subject and the uniform was not practical. I needed a clean one for every day I worked (3 days, dovetailed with another P/T job) and I was not given 3 days' worth. It is not convenient for me to wash uniforms every day, drying is a problem and they wore out quickly.
Staff at academic FE colleges are not expected to wear a uniform, so I don't htink it's even the norm. The new management is full of crap about corporate identity and being easily identifiable from the students, but funnily enough, none of my students has a problem knowing who I am without uniform.
There is general resistance from most staff, but we are all a bit edgy about redundancies, because this tends to happen duing management takeovers. Does anyone know where I stand legally on this? My colleague and I are of the opinion that we should show a united front to management and be strong, but others are unsure. The uniforms before were a nuisance and looked awful.
Has anyone else been in this situation?

misi Wed 15-Oct-08 21:34:00

depends on what is in your contract of employment. if it says you are to wear uniforms and this clause was not removed when it was agreed to not wear them, then I don't think you have much choice. if the contracts say you do not have to wear them anymore then under employment (transfer of business) legislation, I am under the impression that incoming management have to honour all existing contracts and obligations unless you agree to change. if there is no mention whatsoever, then thats where I get stuck, sorry, so you need an up to date copy of your contract or anything in writing that guarantees you not to have to wear them again.

if it looks like you will have to wear them, you must negoiate. go for extra money, extra uniforms or new designs remembering that if the old styles were impractical they may have been a health and safety issue/risk as work wear needs to be functional and safe.

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Oct-08 08:57:52

I'm not sure why corporate identity is 'crap'. Sounds reasonable to me, and I think academic colleges where staff and students are inside and an agricultural one where you are outdoors in view of the public a lot are very different. Having an identifiable staff member when you're out in the field sounds like a reasonable and sensible proposition to me. Identifiable from the students is different from identifiable to them - you say your students know who you are, of course they do, but that's not what this is about. It's about having a group of people and being able to tell who is in charge and who is responsible for that group, as well as where they are from.

I don't agree with misi about going for extra money. Uniforms don't cost you anything.

What I would suggest is that you and your colleagues offer your cooperation with this as long as you have 3 sets not 2, and as long as you have input in choosing/designing an appropriate uniform for what you do. A polo shirt in college colour with a logo or something, very practical, or whatever you think would work.

That would address your actual concerns with your uniform and would save the management a lot of hassle and difficulty introducing something that is being resisted.

The only problem it doesn't solve is if some of this resistance is partly down to it being new management trying to change something, rather than specifics about what the change actually is and how much it actually inconveniences people.

See here about TUPE and protected terms and conditions if your business changes ownership. Terms and conditions don't necessarily have to be written down to count.

See here about changes to terms and conditions, and here about what to do if you don't agree with the changes. As you'll see, you can resist, but in your case for a minor change like this, you may consider it better to negotiate and compromise instead.

misi Thu 16-Oct-08 13:20:40

asking for higher wages is a negoiating tool, nothing else, if it has already been agreed with previous management not to wear uniforms, it is accepted practice that to introduce new working practices there has to be compromise and the management giving something in return, extra wages is one such compromise

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Oct-08 13:27:44

Well yes, but it's quite a hefty one just to introduce new uniforms! A more likely compromise would be letting them choose, or giving them something else they want in terms of working practices. A pay rise for a large group of employees would be very expensive and disproportionate to the amount of inconvenience being suffered by those employees.

Of course they can ask for anything they like, but I would imagine asking for a pay rise would be more or less laughed at and would undermine their credibility in the negotiations.

misi Thu 16-Oct-08 13:50:46

thats the idea, a pay increase would be expensive and so encourage the new management to negoiate.
if their contracts do say they don't have to wear uniforms, theres not a lot the management can do except to give something away that is acceptable to the workers.
I get the impression that you have not been party to employment negoitations before flowerybeanbag?
in any negoiation, you start at the furthest point apart and work your way to the middle, there are wild, impossible demands but asking for a payrise to wear a uniform is standard practice and is usually the first thing asked for so if the management laughed at the workers, they are the ones who will loose out.
for people who have successfully negoiated away wearing uniforms, going back to them is a BIG deal so something suitable will be needed to acheive this, if they all felt strongly enough before, why should they go back when they get little or nothing in return?

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Oct-08 15:31:11

Is that a serious comment about me never having been party to employment negotiations misi?!! Not on this topic much then? hmm

I don't think asking to be paid for wearing a uniform is a sensible idea, that's my point of view. It's not costing the employees anything to wear one, they are not losing out at all, it's just a personal preference not to wear it and a minor inconvenience in terms of washing. Asking for financial compensation for a change in terms and conditions that is a major inconvenience/extra cost, fine, but this isn't.

I can't imagine for one minute the management are so desperate to get the uniform introduced that they are willing to even consider a pay rise to do it. But by all means ask if you think they are either that desperate or have plenty of cash to chuck about TheSmallClanger.

misi Thu 16-Oct-08 16:52:51

this is what the OP wrote,
''I work at an agricultural college (FE) teaching a practical outdoor subject and the uniform was not practical. I needed a clean one for every day I worked (3 days, dovetailed with another P/T job) and I was not given 3 days' worth. It is not convenient for me to wash uniforms every day, drying is a problem and they wore out quickly''

this is what you wrote,
''It's not costing the employees anything to wear one, they are not losing out at all, it's just a personal preference not to wear it and a minor inconvenience in terms of washing''

did you read what the OP said? she said it was not practical and wasn't given enough. A new management team invariably wants to change the existing corporate identity but at as little cost as possible so are not likely to give enough for a weeks work either.
have you ever had to wear a uniform at work?
no company ever gives you enough for the week you work and its a bu**er to keep washing it all the time and does cost you money unless you have full loads all the time.

but I am not sure why you have gone on to this track flowery, I do really think you are not experienced at employee negoiation unless it is as part of a big company and you are the management. if you were one of the team to be faced with this after successfully getting rid of the uniform only a short time ago, your views would be different. my reply was with options open and would need to be read in context with the situation that you and I do not know details of exactly. worker/management relations is a load of grey areas that needs to be explored in context, it is never black and white, each situation needs to be dealt with in its unique way as each situation will be unique, I put across a few options I know of and 1 I know as standard practice.
I have successfully negoiated many changes to contracts like this and other working practices and never had any problems or disgruntled staff, ever and any decent management team should know, disgruntled staff will adversely affect productivity or produce industrial action.

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Oct-08 18:01:43

Yes I did read the original post, and the OP has some perfectly valid concerns. I would hope that the management would take those into consideration, in fact there has been no indication yet that they won't do so.

As it happens I have worn uniforms for work twice.

From the OP it seems clear to me that she and her colleagues are not in a strong negotiating position. They are already concerned about being made redundant, and the numbers of unemployed in this country are rising.

What do you mean when you say you're not sure why I have gone on this track? Sorry I don't understand your meaning there. I am giving my viewpoint just as you are. I am also confused as to why experience negotiating as part of a large company from the management point of view (as you have assumed I am) doesn't count as being experienced at employee negotiation..

Anyway. If I were involved in this negotiation it would go as follows

Me: Hello lovely employees. We are proposing to introduce a uniform. These are the good business reasons why we would like to do it:


And these are the reason why we think it would be good for you as well


We have no doubt that some of you have concerns and we would like to hear them and to hear any alternative suggestions or proposals you might have.

I would then expect anyone who objected to say so and to explain exactly why. I would then try and negotiate their cooperation by attempting to address those concerns and listening to their proposals. I gave the OP some ideas to use as alternative proposals in an earlier post. I would hope most reasonable employers hoping for cooperation would at least consider those and take into account those concerns.

If someone instead of saying what their concerns were and proposing alternatives said 'I just don't want to and I won't unless I get a pay rise', that would not put me in a mood to play nicely myself quite honestly. I would say 'Oh really Susan? Well if you feel you need financial compensation to wear a uniform, you must have some pretty serious concerns about doing so, lets talk about them and see if we can address them.' If it was for cost reasons, I would bear that in mind and definitely consider it, and would expect some figures about increased costs.

And so on.

But I would bear in mind the following

It's a perfectly valid and fairly minor change to make, and there are good business reasons.

The employees are not in a strong position as I said.

It's perfectly possible for an employer to force through a change as long as they go through the necessary steps to do so. It comes with a risk, that the employees will claim unfair dismissal if that happens, but as an employer I would consider the likelihood of the employees bothering to do that and of them succeeding if they did (not very likely), and if push came to shove and they absolutely refused that would be an option.

As you say, disgruntled staff will adversely affect productivity, which is why I would only see that as an absolute last resort and would instead listen to concerns and address them.

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Oct-08 18:36:41

On reflection I would like to withdraw my comment about the OP being laughed at if she goes in asking for a payrise. That wasn't particularly constructive of me. blush

TheSmallClanger Thu 16-Oct-08 21:29:43

Interesting track this has taken - thanks for the insight/advice, though.

I've checked my contract and there's nothing about uniforms in it. They were not officially compulsory before, but in the same vein of voluntary as primary school uniform are - you were whinged and tutted at by certain people for not wearing it.

I do not wish to start wearing uniforms again for a number of reasons, including those stated above: we were never given enough, as I get licked/weed on by animals, the stuff wore out from constantly being in the wash, it was not really suitable for outdoor working in bad weather and the quality of the garments was extremely poor; I'm talking trouser crotch seams tearing here.
As I said in my OP, other teachers do not wear uniforms. School teachers don't, academic FE teachers don't, university lecturers certainly don't. It feels as if we're being set apart from other, indoor staff members as well. I don't want to have to go round in a ghastly bottle green polycotton ensemble while the Business and Floristry departments, for example, get to choose their own clothes!
I've also spent a considerable amount of money on sorting out my own, good quality workwear, which I don't want to go to waste.
To fill in some background: I'm not out with the general public as all of my classes take place on the campus farm and in the sheds. My job contains almost no forward-facing admin.
The college has not been bought out, but there has been a change of management after a chase-out of old staff by a new Principal. This has happened before.
Objections have already been raised by my line manager.

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Oct-08 22:07:16

I certainly don't think you should wear a uniform that isn't practical for you - obviously practicality is really important in what you do, so if what's being proposed won't stand up to the requirements of the job that's not good enough.

If you're not out with the public at all why do you think your new bosses want to introduce this? Not necessarily the reason/s they've given you, but what's actually in their mind. Just worth thinking about as understanding the motivation for something helps when working out what to do about it.

It doesn't sound like something that is absolutely crucial to them, for the reasons you've mentioned, so if there is resistance they may well leave it alone - motivation is often low in a situation like this anyway, so trying to force through an unpopular change without good reason isn't a good idea imo.

But all those affected sticking together and voicing the same opinion will really help, and I think from your OP you were concerned that might not happen? Are some of your colleagues feeling very vulnerable in terms of their job and unwilling to voice any negative views?

TheSmallClanger Thu 16-Oct-08 22:17:47

I really don't know why they are doing it. It makes little sense, and it's another cost they could be avoiding. There are dark rumours that the actual Agriculture section is being split from the main FE college, but they were circulating before the new Principal. I don't think they'll get rid of Agriculture, because we bring in money through offering professional, paid-for training courses in things like Chainsaw Operation and Tractor Driving. Then again, Floristry do hobby courses which are all paid-for, and they aren't having to change anything.

I know that my line manager will oppose the changes, and opinion is generally against uniforms, plus a couple of other issues. I suspect that some will cave in for a quiet life, although my manager is working on them and stressing the importance of solidarity and not making other people look bad.
It is all too weird.

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