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EDIT: I have reorganised my question because all responses so far have been off topic to the questions I actually asked.

What I would like to know is:

  1. Am I acting within my rights?

  2. Are my employers breaking the law by trying to block this meeting?

  3. Should I have gone about this somewhat differently? Bare in mind that management are pretty useless about making any kind of change (unless it suits them).

Please see below for context.

Recently I have been dissatisfied with management's response to my concerns at my work. (This is a burn account for anonymity)

Speaking to colleagues, I found that they also had concerns and were not even bothering to raise them with HR / management because they knew nothing would happen.

I have considered for some time that some kind of union would be beneficial to the majority of employees and decided after the above mentioned consultation that I would actually do something about it.

Now it is important to know that a sizeable proportion of my colleagues are a little older, perhaps have children or sick relatives and would not want to rock the boat too much. Entirely respectable.

In contrast, I am young, unattached, dependent-less and work in a rapidly growing field. I have no concerns about job security which is why I felt that I, rather than someone else, should be the one to speak out. Because the repercussions can only affect me.

I sent out an email, siting some general irks of myself and others to those that it would concern from my office. Scheduling a drinks event at the local restaurant / bar / bistro and encouraging those that shared our concerns to come along and a plan could be made for something to do about it.

This was received VERY well by the recipients.

2 days later however, I am dragged into a meeting with a supervisor and am essentially threatened to cancel the whole thing (They weren't sent the email by me). This is the UK so no such formal reference to being fired but the connotations are there. This particular supervisor has threatened this before and it doesn't work. I am not scared of being fired.

I have been told (warned?) that I will have a meeting with the head of the company in the near future. Is this a place to make a case for my actions? Do I just shut up? Is there any reason I haven't thought of that means I should reconsider going through with this?

I will make sure to update with future steps and outcomes.

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Am I acting within my rights?

Partially, I believe you're using company resources (email) to organise a meeting outside of the company to discuss company issues crosses a line. That's not to say you're not free to meet with whom ever you please outside of work for whatever purpose but if you organised it from company email (to or from) then IMHO that's not the smartest move.

Are my employers breaking the law by trying to block this meeting?

When you say "cancel the whole thing" what do you mean? Do you mean that they would attend the meeting outside of work and attempt to shut it down? Again, I think they could legitimately force you to cancel it from your work email because that could give the appearance that it's been endorsed by them. Some companies are (understandbly) very strict about what can/cannot be sent from their email systems.

But to answer your question, they can't prevent you from meeting outside of work if you do so in a lawful way.

Should I have gone about this somewhat differently? Bare in mind that management are pretty useless about making any kind of change (unless it suits them).

If I had issues, I would raise them first and if they weren't taken onboard by the company, I might consider raising them higher until/unless the benefit doesn't outweigh the risk of doing so.

I would be careful about enlisting the help of your colleagues because you've mentioned that you're not worried about potential repurcussions but others might be alot more concerned about the impact of losing their jobs.

Btw if you didn't send the invite from your work email or to any colleagues on their work email then please advise in which case I've obviously made an error and I'm happy to delete this answer.

  • Thank you for answering the actual question. For interest, there does not seem to be a problem with the use of company email in this case although I understand it is frowned upon in general. To reverse it now would be of little consequence because I could just organise verbally. No, my managers won’t just come along to the meeting. I believe the general narrative is that they would like me to cancel it of my own volition. My contention is that even asking that it be cancelled with a free response is itself illegal but I don’t know. Your last point is something I and others have tried before. – non union union Nov 19 '19 at 21:34
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    If managment "would like you to cancel it of your own volition" then the reasonable thing to ask is "what happens if I don't". It's not illegal, and entirely reasonable, for them to ask you to do something. But if they threaten (or carry out) punitive actions if you say no that's an entirely different matter. – DJClayworth Nov 19 '19 at 22:30
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    @DJClayworth I agree with you. – ChrisFNZ Nov 19 '19 at 22:44
  • @nonunionunion Usually we wait for 24-48 hours before Accepting an answer to allow everyone who wants to write one an opportunity to do so. – nick012000 Nov 20 '19 at 0:54
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I am young, unattached, dependent-less and work in a rapidly growing field. I have no concerns about job security

If this is true, then your best course of action is to look for a new company to work for where HR and management will actually listen to feedback from their employees and that their employees do not feel that "nothing would happen" if they raised concerns.

Your current course of action is only going to upset management (it already has), it likely will not bring about any positive changes so I am not sure exactly what you are trying to accomplish. You mentioned that you are not afraid of being fired which means you basically have mentally checked out of this company. Clearly you are unhappy at this company and you will not benefit yourself leaving the company in a "blaze of glory".

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    So unionizing can only end badly and no one should do it? – SpeedOfRound Nov 19 '19 at 20:55
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    I appreciate the response but this really doesn’t answer my questions. You’re right. I should leave. But until I do, I would like to work on making the working situation more palatable. How can I go about this? – non union union Nov 19 '19 at 20:59
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    Good answer, in addition, organising a mutiny is something that doesn't really do well for your rep long term.... young and don't care right now... might be different when you're married with kids wondering why no one will employ you. – Kilisi Nov 19 '19 at 20:59
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    Forcing management to do the right thing, even when they don't want to, has been something unions have done for a hundred years. – DJClayworth Nov 19 '19 at 21:11
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    @sf02 So what would you call it when management doesn't want to do something, the union strikes, and the management then gives in? With no legislation involved. – DJClayworth Nov 19 '19 at 21:17
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The best action a disgruntled employee who can secure another employment can do is to leave. This is not the only the best choice for the employee, but also the best way said an employee can cause pain to the business.

After you leave, you find better work, and then you are in a position to help your former co-workers move to the better company with you (although make sure that you are not under some anti-poaching clause from your contract). And if your assumptions about how the company is mismanaged are true (which is a very big IF as your perspective as a rank employee is extremely limited, and there should never be much stock put in office gossip), eventually the company will either change, or will struggle to keep the workforce needed, as employees will retire/move on, and finding replacement will be harder and harder due to buildup of reputation.

And if you are wrong, you will be happier in your new job and that ends this chapter of your life. Rather win/win I would say.

Since you stated that you can rather easily find new employment then I strongly recommend that you take that step. The more radical actions, like trying to arrange some sort of quasi-union will require a lot more time, planning and education on your part. Starting with not using company resources and time to facilitates such meets. Otherwise, you are trying to gamble not only with your, but also others work security, and that is simply not something you seem entitled to do.

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    No, no no. Abusive companies love to say "if you don't like it leave", so that they can go on abusing all the other employees. They said exactly that when workers were trying to force companies to provide safety equipment, and sick pay, and allow workers to organize. Change only comes to the company when employees stand up for themselves. – DJClayworth Nov 19 '19 at 22:28
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    @DJClayworth that is offtopic and just plain not true. Plenty of change comes by people moving from bad to better employer, deciding with their feet. – Tymoteusz Paul Nov 19 '19 at 22:31
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    I'm explaining why I disagree with your answer, which many people consider polite (as opposed to just downvoting with no comment). As for which of us is correct, you are entitled to your opinion. – DJClayworth Nov 19 '19 at 22:38
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    You stated "Change only comes to the company when employees stand up for themselves" in the context that doing so is only via organizing instead of leaving. Which is factually wrong, plain and simple, unless you can back this statement with citation. And it still remains off-topic, as if you want to discuss the validity and effectiveness of unions, this is really not the topic for it. Even though you are trying very hard to do so with every answer. – Tymoteusz Paul Nov 19 '19 at 22:40
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    Not going to argue with you in comments. – DJClayworth Nov 19 '19 at 22:44

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