One Day Without Us at University of Leeds

UCU General Secretary Election Hustings

Who leads our union makes a difference. The union elects a general secretary every five years.

We have invited both general secretary candidates, Sally Hunt and Jo McNeill, to a meeting for members at University of Leeds to make their case as to why they are the right candidate to lead the union. The meeting is:

Wednesday 15 February, 5.30pm
Baines wing room 1.13

Jo McNeill will be attending. Sally Hunt can’t attend but we will have invited her to send us a video clip. Please come along to discuss what sort of leadership our union needs.

Elections for the UCU national executive committee are also open 1 Feb – 1 March. Please vote!

Pride and Prejudice in Education

Today’s talk by Pura Aziza, who is a member of UCU’s LGBT members standing committee, is at 1pm, 11-14 Blenheim Terrace, room G15. (The entrance is at number 11.)

The talk is part of UCU’s LGBT History Month activities.

One Day Without Us

On Monday 20 February many UCU members will join colleagues in our university and others, and in all sorts of workplaces across the country, in taking a day off work to show how important EU nationals and migrants from around the world are the this country.

As university staff we know our work is international. So does the University of Leeds, which has agreed to be as supportive as it can be to requests to take annual leave to support the action this Monday.

For more about the campaign, see 1daywithoutus.org

UCU, Unite and Unison are all supporting the day of action, and we are helping to arrange activities on the day.

In Leeds city centre there will stalls on Briggate from 12.30 to 5pm, including a big group photo at 1pm. Organisers are predicting a large turnout. Then at 5pm there will be a march to celebrate migration, anti-racism and freedom of movement.

At the university, there will be stalls in the Parkinson building from 11am to 12.30pm. If you can’t make it down, you can show your support by taking your photo with one of this sign or the one below and posting it on social media. Spread the word!

Proposed changes to Statutes – new grounds to dismiss staff

Update 16 December:  University HR have circulated an email about this to all staff today entitled “Proposed changes to Statute”.  Leeds UCU would be grateful to hear your response to this email – please email your thoughts to leedsuniucu@gmail.com  

The university’s Statutes are part of the terms and conditions of academic and academic-related staff.  They set out  the procedures for redundancy, grievance, discipline  and dismissal, including  appeals. UCU has been negotiating with the university management for some time over updates to Statutes, and some progress has been made.  However, management has recently introduced a new grounds for dismissal – “some other substantial reason” – which will make it much easier for the university to dismiss people for any reason.  What a way to celebrate being University of the Year!  It doesn’t entirely chime with the VC saying one of the contributors to that award was  “unparalleled investments in our staff”.

The current Statutes are at www.leeds.ac.uk/secretariat/statutes.html

What does  “some other substantial reason” (SOSR) mean?  It could be anything including cases where there is a personality clash, raising insufficient funding or not publishing enough, or simply that an individual no longer fits the academic interests of a department. Or perhaps the university is thinking of dismissing teaching staff without a PhD, or research staff who they think will not achieve a high enough score in the next REF.  The examples the university has given where this might be used are: if a member of staff loses their driving licence, issues from a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, conflict of interest and third party pressure. The last two are quite alarming! Third party pressure might mean for example if your research findings didn’t suit the commercial interests of a company who funds a major research project.

Leeds UCU has rejected this addition to Statutes, and so has UCU’s national Ratification Panel, who have to ratify significant changes to terms and conditions before the union can agree to them.  We and the Ratification Panel also have several other significant concerns about the proposed new Statutes, see table below.

The university has nevertheless sent the proposed new Statutes to Senate and Council, with some vague wording about ‘subject to minor textual amendments’. We feel this was a completely inaccurate representation of the ongoing negotiations, and deliberately hid the major issues we are concerned about.  The next step is for the Statutes to go before the Privy Council, a parliamentary body which essentially acts as a rubber stamp.  Management intend this to happen before Christmas.

The university has told us that they only plan to use SOSR in exceptional circumstances, but Statutes contain the fundamental constitutional and governance provisions of the University, underpinning your terms and conditions of employment.  This matter is too significant to leave to verbal assurances, and who knows what might happen when the senior officers of the university change?

A packed UCU local branch general meeting on 6th December  voted unanimously to record a failure to agree and go into dispute if the university refuses to continue to negotiate with us, and specifically if SOSR is not removed.  The university is well aware that we are willing to continue with negotiations, so we hope they will stop this headlong rush to drastically worsen your terms and conditions.

Members please check your UCU emails for the actions we would like you to help us with at this stage.  And please discuss this issue with colleagues who may not be aware that the university is trying to worsen their terms and conditions.  Many staff have contacted Leeds UCU to express their outrage at this, and the first step to getting involved in campaigning is to join the union, which is easy to do at www.ucu.org.uk/join

The Leeds UCU Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/leedsucu will have ongoing comments and imagery which we’d be grateful if you could retweet.

More details – comparison of current and proposed Statutes

The most significant differences are highlighted in the table below:

Current Statutes Proposed new Statutes
Removal for incapacity on ill health grounds:

If the member of staff does not agree that their contract should be terminated on medical grounds, the issue is referred to a Board with a medically qualified chair.

Member invited to informal meeting.  There is no provision for a medically qualified chair at this meeting.
Appeals against dismissal

At the appeal stage, the person appointed to hear and determine that appeal “are persons not employed by the University holding, or having held, judicial office or being barristers or solicitors of at least ten years’ standing.”

The membership of the panel shall include the Vice Chancellor (or Deputy Vice Chancellor) plus one lay member of the Council and a member of the Senate (no mention of legal qualifications).  There is no provision for an independent and legally qualified practitioner.
Dismissal on grounds of ‘some other substantial reason’ not included Dismissal on grounds of ‘some other substantial reason’ included.  No specific examples have been included but this could include: conflict of interest; personality clash; third party pressure; not having a PhD or; criticising management