Why are Leeds University academic and related staff taking industrial action?

hop ici UCU members at the University of Leeds are taking industrial action as part of a dispute with senior management about changes to the university statutes, in effect an imposed change to their contracts. We took strike action on 22 June and we are continuing to take action short of a strike by working to contract. More strikes are expected in the autumn if the university won’t return to the negotiating table and take the concerns of staff seriously.

websate Leeds University management want to be able to dismiss staff for undefined reasons. This could potentially include:

  • ‘Third party’ pressure from corporations or government if they don’t like research findings
  • Sacking employees where there is a personality difference

http://viagraachat.org/acheter-levitra-generique-vardenafil/index.html acheter levitra pas cher Would students want to be taught by people who are afraid to lose their jobs if they step out of line?

http://activspace.com/ed/sitemap-1.html arthobby Our trade union, UCU, aims to stop this and other worrying changes to staff terms and conditions. We have tried to resolve this dispute by negotiation, including through ACAS (the independent conciliation service), but management remain intransigent.

Some background

University statutes set out grounds for dismissing staff – currently redundancy, capability, ill health, or conduct. Our management want to add an undefined catch-all category for dismissing staff for ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ (SOSR). Plus other detrimental changes:

  • No medically qualified chair for panels deciding ill health dismissals
  • No independent legally qualified chair for most dismissal appeals

Why could this threaten academic freedom?

Academics might be afraid to put forward new ideas or controversial opinions. Imagine the worry about being sacked if you follow an avenue of research that might be unpopular with a major funder. Academic freedom in the pursuit of knowledge is at the heart of a functioning university.

A healthy thriving University culture depends on confident staff who can speak and think openly without the fear of dismissal.

Please sign our petition at: speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-of-leeds-statutes-no-sackers-charter

Advice for members on working to contract

Simple link for writing to your MP about the statutes dispute

UCU has produced an online email-your-MP page for the University of Leeds statutes dispute, to make it easier to write to your MP. It’s at: ucu.org.uk/contactyourLeedsMP

You can customise the letter to highlight your own concerns.

If you could visit your MP’s surgery in person that would be great, especially if you live in the Leeds area. Please contact ucu@leeds.ac.uk as we may be able to arrange a group visit.

Please contact your MP about the statutes dispute

We’re suggesting members contact their Members of Parliament, either by email, letter or by going along to a one of the MP’s surgeries (which will be advertised on their websites).

It can be daunting to start from scratch with such a letter, so here’s a template letter you can use if you wish or use as a starting point:

Dear [your MP]

I am writing as your constituent to raise concerns about proposed new terms and conditions for staff at the University of Leeds, where I work. My trade union, the University and College Union, is in dispute with the university over this, yet the university management is seeking to push through changes at Privy Council imminently, so I am asking you to make some representations on my behalf.

Terms and conditions for academic and related staff at the university are governed by the university’s statutes. The management wants to ‘modernise’ these statutes – as I see it, to make it easier for staff to be dismissed.

I am concerned about three changes in particular:

  • Removal of a medically qualified chair for panels deciding ill health dismissals
  • Removal of an independent legally qualified chair for most dismissal appeals
  • Addition of ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR) as grounds for dismissal (existing grounds are redundancy, capability, ill health, or conduct)

With regard to the latter change, the management has suggested that SOSRs might include ‘third party pressure’ (e.g. from corporations or government agencies who are unhappy with certain research findings), ‘breakdown in trust’ (e.g. anyone falling into disagreement with their manager) and ‘conflict of interest’ (e.g. whistleblowers who alert the public or wider academic community to certain issues or concerns). I therefore believe this change would pose a substantial threat to academic freedom.

UCU has been negotiating with management over statutes, including via ACAS, but the management has so far refused to withdraw any of these changes. We are now in an official dispute – we took a day’s strike action on 22 June and are continuing with action short of a strike (working to contract).

The changes to statute were agreed by the university’s Council, on which staff are in the minority. However, in order to come into force, the new statutes now need to be agreed by Privy Council. If approved by the Privy Council, it will be very difficult to reverse these changes, so I am therefore asking for your help in making urgent representations with a view to halting these changes. You can help by:

  1. Writing to the vice chancellor of the university, Sir Alan Langlands, asking him to reconsider the proposed new statutes and return to meaningful negotiations with UCU.
  2. Raising this with parliamentary colleagues who are on Privy Council, asking them not to agree to the changed statutes at the University of Leeds whilst our dispute is ongoing. (a list of Privy Council members is available here: https://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/privy-council/privy-council-members/privy-counsellors/)
  3. Signing our petition at http://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-of-leeds-statutes-no-sackers-charter/

Thank you in advance for your help, and I look forward to hearing from you. Please let me know if you require any further information.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

[Your address, because they’ll want to know you’re in their constituency]

If you’re not sure who your Member of Parliament is, you can search by your postcode at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/

Photos from our strike about statutes 22 June 2017

We were delighted by the support from members (we picketed all 17 university entrances) and from the prospective students and parents attending the Open Day. It would have been hard for any visitor to the Open Day not to notice our strike!  The response to our leaflets from prospective students and their parents was overwhelmingly positive.  Here are some photos of just a few of our friendly and energetic pickets!

       

If you have any more photos you’d like added to this page, please email them to ucu@leeds.ac.uk – thanks.

Media coverage of our strike about statutes

Some good coverage of our strike on 22 June:

Do sign our petition if you haven’t already: http://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-of-leeds-statutes-no-sackers-charter/