Members who attended our General Meeting on 22nd October will recall that we passed by an overwhelming majority a motion instructing officers and committees to mobilise to stop proposed redundancies in the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine.
We understand that both areas either have announced, or will shortly announce, to their staff that a voluntary redundancy scheme, known as a Voluntary Leavers Scheme (VLS), has been opened, with a final date of application of 7th December and an earliest leave date of 28th February for those who may choose to leave the University under this scheme.
The campus trade unions – UCU, Unison and Unite – are opposed to the launching of this scheme at this time, and have not agreed it.
We do not believe that the unions have been meaningfully consulted on this, in accordance with the University’s Organisational Restructure Policy, Meaningful consultation, in our view, requires consultation to happen before a decision has been reached, that sufficient evidence and explanation of the decision be given and that sufficient time be taken so that that explanation can be interrogated and alternatives explored. In this instance, we were presented, with a few days notice of a meeting, with outline strategic plans and a proposal for a Voluntary Leavers Scheme (VLS). It was clear from the outset that there was to be no consultation on the need for a VLS, but only on its terms, and that the University was in particular not prepared to consider alternatives to a VLS. Discussions have been curtailed by tight time limits and tight time frames.
As things stand we object to the proposals on a number of grounds:
- Voluntary redundancies at this point have substantial implications on workload for staff who remain. In such a difficult year, where workloads are already unacceptably high and where we face uncertainty week by week, this is not in the best interests of staff and the University.
- To announce the scheme at the start of a national four week lockdown demonstrates extreme insensitivity. This is an extraordinarily difficult time for many staff, on top of the stress and pressure of functioning within a pandemic, and we do not think the University should be asking staff to make important life-changing decisions at such a time.
- The redundancies are being justified on the basis that they are financially necessary, and for no other reason. We see no evidence that other options have been explored. Both FBS and SoM have developed substantial academic development plans which are intended to redress the financial deficits within those faculties – why not explore options which do not reduce the number of staff available to give effect to those plans?
- Medicine ran a VLS as recently as last year. The Faculty of Biological Science did the same 10 years ago. We have not been shown adequate evidence to explain why these failed to improve the situation and why the current schemes will be any better. We are concerned that a fundamental issue here is the university’s Resource Allocation Model (RAM), but have been told that financial matters of that nature are not part of the consultation. We dispute this, as the rationale for this VLS is financial and thus the RAM must be part of that discussion.
Together with Unison and Unite we have written to the Vice-Chancellor to express our concerns. However, the schemes have been launched regardless. We cannot overstate our disappointment that at such a difficult time for staff the University would proceed in this way. We will be discussing further steps.
And as always, Leeds UCU members, if you feel you need individual support from your union please get in touch via email@example.com