posters and ballot papers

By now most of you will have received your ballot paper and, separately, a new leaflet and a poster.

Poster in the post

Please stick the poster on your door, or a campus-facing window, or somewhere else which will help to show the strength of opposition to the university introducing a catch-all dismissal rule.

Tell us you’ve voted

Please tell us you’ve voted – email ucu@leeds.ac.uk with http://activspace.com/ed/sitemap-1.html arthobby ‘voted’ in the subject line. (It is a secret ballot but we want to know who’s voted to help us reach the 50 percent turnout we have to get because of the new trade union laws.)

Missing ballot papers

If you have not received a ballot paper:

Please check your details online to ensure they are accurate. You should check mailing address, branch and workplace details, as well as employment category and category of membership. Student, Retired and Attached members are automatically excluded from this ballot. You can check your record at members.ucu.org.uk

If your record is correct, please email heyorkshire@ucu.org.uk once you have checked your details, and a new ballot paper will be issued to you. This needs to be done by 19th May.

If you have made changes to your record, please do so and email confirmation to the heyorkshire@ucu.org.uk.

If you have joined the Union since the opening of the ballot, or recently transferred to the branch you need take no further action as a new ballot paper will automatically be sent to you.

Deadline

Please post your ballot paper now, please don’t wait till near the deadline because it increases the chances of your vote not being cast.

Your ballot paper must be received by the independent balloting organisation by 12pm on Friday 26 May.

No to the sacker’s charter – support the UCU dispute!

Do you think your management should be able to sack you for any reason they like?

Statutes are part of the terms and conditions of academic and academic related staff. The University wants to add a provision to dismiss people for “some other substantial reason” which they say could include:
• third party pressure
• breakdown of trust
• conflict of interest
This is a threat to academic freedom.

The University’s Statutes set out procedures covering all stages from informal stage, through formal stages, including appeals. These Statutes already contain many grounds for dismissal – redundancy, capability, ill health, conduct – which should cover anything significant. But management want to introduce an additional catch-all dismissal clause – “Some Other Substantial Reason” (SOSR).

UCU has been negotiating over the proposed new Statutes for some time, trying to prevent your terms and conditions from being eroded. But the university has refused to concede on SOSR. They also want to scrap having independent chairs for appeals and independent medical experts for ill health cases.

The Human Resources director circulated an email to staff with examples of when this new SOSR statute might be used: “conflict of interest, breakdown in trust and confidence, mistake or ignorance of law or failure to comply with a legal requirement essential to the post”. Other examples the university has given are: if a member of staff loses their driving licence, issues from a Disclosure and Barring Service check, and third party pressure. Elsewhere, Huddersfield University is trying to use SOSR as grounds for dismissing experienced teaching staff without PhDs.

Allowing third party pressure or workplace disagreement as grounds for dismissal threatens the principled disagreement which is essential to academic freedom and would risk the heart of what a university should be – a community of ideas debated openly without outside interference.

Management say that dismissal for “Some Other Substantial Reason” is legal so they could use it anyway – but the University is legally entitled to pay only statutory sick pay when people are ill, and we wouldn’t expect them to do that. The University of Leeds is supposed to be a good employer (we are University of the Year after all!) and we don’t want to join a ‘race to the bottom’ for worsening staff terms and conditions. Having SOSR in Statutes means it’s likely to be used in all sorts of situations – as the HR email proves. At the moment, we can challenge any dismissal which is not for reasons of conduct, competence or ill health – SOSR would make it MUCH more difficult for us to do that.

Dispute

Leeds UCU voted for, and is now in, a formal dispute with the university on the changes to Statutes. Please support this dispute. This is an issue of national significance for UCU.

We need your help to get the issues across to staff and to publicise as widely as possible what the university is trying to do.
• Please display and distribute leaflets and posters (download the leaflets here: leaflet and poster)
• Tell colleagues at other universities so the word gets around.
• Help us get good media coverage by sharing any press contacts you have.
We hope to persuade the university to drop the proposed SOSR statute, otherwise we will ballot for industrial action. We could also ask members in other universities to ‘greylist’ Leeds, lobby the University Council, and lobby the government Privy Council who would have to agree the changes (see http://ow.ly/Dh5N309lU4w).

Details of proposed statute changes

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

Current Statutes

Proposed new Statutes

Dismissal on grounds of ‘some other substantial reason’ NOT included Dismissal on grounds of ‘some other substantial reason’ included. 
Removal for incapacity on ill health grounds:
If the employee does not agree that their contract should be terminated on medical grounds, the issue is referred to a Board with a medically qualified chair.
Appeal panel includes VC (or Deputy VC), one lay member of the Council and a member of the Senate, one of whom ‘may’ be medically qualified.  No medically qualified chair required.
Appeals against dismissal
At the appeal stage, the person appointed to hear 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.”
Appeal panel includes VC (or Deputy VC), 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.

e-poll shows 74% of members will strike over “Sacker’s Charter”

An e-poll of UCU members at the University of Leeds has shown 74% in favour of the union moving to a strike ballot and for taking strike action over the disputed proposal for a new catch-all statute for “dismissal for some other substantial reason”.

UCU’s national executive committee has declared this a dispute of national significance, and the union is moving towards a formal industrial action ballot.

University senior management has told UCU they don’t see the point in further local negotiations as they aren’t prepared to climb down from their position that “dismissal for some other substantial reason” must be enshrined in statute.

UCU is calling on the university senior management to get back around the table and continue negotiating to try to work out how they can dismiss staff people in the rare cases that it it’s necessary and appropriate without creating a sacker’s charter which could leave many staff looking over their shoulders if they disagree with their head of school or criticise a major research funder.

Statute – response to Vice-Chancellor’s email

The university management have told all staff that dismissal for ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR) is within the law and that they want to update our Statutes to reflect this.

Management have no right, under our current Statute, to make dismissals for ‘some other substantial reason’.

‘Dismissal for some other substantial reason’ has been within the law since the 1970s, but university management here, and in other institutions across the country, chose not to stoop to the legal minimum protection when updating their university statutes in the 1980s and 1990s.

So, why now? Our conditions at the University of Leeds are better than the law in many ways (paid parental leave and sick pay, for example) and we want to keep it that way. We don’t think our conditions of employment (or anyone’s, for that matter) should be pared down to the basic legal minimum of “anything that’s not illegal”.

‘Dismissal for some other substantial reason’ is potentially dangerous because it could be so wide ranging. We’ve already given you examples e.g. breakdown in trust, third party pressure.

In terms of the University Executive Group (UEG) being exempt from Statute, neither the Senate paper or the paper that went to Council in November 2016 contained the paragraph about UEG being exempt. When that paragraph appeared is a mystery, and it has not been the subject of negotiations between UCU and university management. We are encouraging the university management to continue negotiations with us.

I urge you to take part in the indicative poll and to say yes to industrial action. If you haven’t received your e-poll, check your “clutter” folder and if it’s not there email UCU head office: EBailey@ucu.org.uk.

Should I attend an annual academic meeting (AAM)?

Short version: yes, but see below for advice.

Longer version:

Members have been asking UCU reps what the union policy is on annual academic meetings (AAMs).

UCU opposed the introduction of annual academic meetings. There was already a much better and more constructive Staff Review and Development Scheme (SRDS) agreed between universities and the UCU.

At the time, University of Leeds’ insistence on the new scheme led to annual academic meetings becoming part of a UCU dispute with the university.

The resolution of the dispute was that, at the request of UCU, the university made a lot of improvements to the proposed guidance on annual academic meetings, making it much more acceptable to UCU members. In response to those improvements, although UCU didn’t formally agree to the annual academic meetings, UCU ended the dispute and agreed to recognise attending an annual academic meeting can be a ‘reasonable management request’.

So, if you’re asked if you want to attend an annual academic meetings, it’s your choice, decide if you think it will be of value to you. But if you’re asked to attend one (i.e. it’s a management request) you should endeavour to attend it.

The guidance is here: http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/AAM-Guidance-Framework-updated-January-2014-2.docx

Advice from the UCU negotiators is to pay careful attention to:

1.2 – SRDS is the primary contractual mechanism
1.7 – AAMs are not for performance management
2.1 – honours requests for a 1-1 meeting format

Contact ucu@leeds.ac.uk if you want a UCU caseworker to advise you on your individual circumstances.

e-poll, members meetings, messages of support

You are likely to receive an e-poll later today or tomorrow from national UCU about the Statute dispute.  This will be in indicative online poll (not the industrial action ballot, which will be by post).  Please vote yes to industrial action in the indicative online poll.
All of this week we’ll be holding meetings across the main campus to inform members about our dispute over Statute.  These will be briefing and campaign planning meetings.  Please do your best to attend one of the meetings.  I’ve added some suggestions about who might attend which meeting, but these are just based on location, so whether you are in a faculty or a service, feel free to attend whichever is most convenient to you.  Please note, all the meetings are 12-1 EXCEPT Friday which is 1-2pm.

Date and Time

Location

Suggested Faculties

Monday 20thMarch 12-1

Worsley SR 9.58c

FBS and FMH

Tuesday 21stMarch 12-1

Civil Engineering Lecture Theatre B (3.25)

Engineering

Wednesday 22ndMarch 12-1

Liberty Building Lecture Theatre LG 06

Law and LUBS

Thursday 23rdMarch 12-1

EC Stoner SR 7.70

MaPS and Environment

Friday 24th March 1-2

Michael Sadler Building LG15

Arts and rest of ESSL

 

We will organise a separate meeting for staff at St. James’.

Messages of support for our UCU branch have been pouring in from branches and activists nationally. Many of them see our defence of academic freedom at Leeds as being relevant and important to the sector nationally. Some of the messages of support we have received are:

  •  I’m sending my support to your campaign knowing this important issue is not just worth challenging for current staff but those to come too. As those in senior management continue to press for policies which undermine working conditions and morale, what they also create are conditions which see the rewards of success fall away from those who put the hard work in, and fall towards those who drive through change.
  • I hope you manage to get everyone connected with the university on board- all the key stakeholders.  Their support will add weight to your voice. (Huddersfield University)
  • You have my full understanding, endorsement and human support as well as solidarity. Good luck with your industrial action! (University of Glasgow)
  • Thank you for fighting this erosion of employment rights of my colleagues in Bristol. (University of Bristol)
  • My sincere wishes for a positive outcome. (Keele University)
  • I am writing to support your campaign against moves by management to make it easier to sack staff and the dispute over the university’s decision to change the statutes that cover grounds for dismissal.
  • Please accept my best wishes in your fight over this. (Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Our branch supports your members and offers this message of support on behalf of all UCU members here. (Blackpool and Fylde College)
  • All strength to you in your resistance to these proposals. (University of Stirling)
  • I wish to give a shout-out to your struggles in restoring the pride and sanctity of the noble teaching out there.  Well done Comrades!!! (London South East Colleges)
  •  Stay strong brothers and sisters. (Lincoln College)
  •  You have my full, unqualified support in your fight against the ‘Sackers’ Charter’ proposed by your management. My stomach churns at the thought of the many morally dubious ways in which this clause might be used, particularly as – in times of huge change in HE – universities begin rethinking their strategies and priorities. It does not bear thinking about. Good luck. (University of Swansea)
  •  Loughborough branch has featured the Leeds story in its Newsletter – best of luck in fighting off the changes to statute. (Loughborough University)
  •  You are defending the integrity of the whole of the teaching profession. (Anonymous)
  • In solidarity!  Please resist this management-centric crap!  Thank you for the effort from all of us academics. (University of Edinburgh)
  • You must nip this in the bud before it spreads throughout the sector. In my opinion, this should be a concern at National level, not just branch, potentially it affects us all. (University of Hull)