University of Leeds senior management are insisting on reducing staff to cut costs in the School of Medicine and the Faculty of Biological Sciences, and they refuse to rule out compulsory redundancies.
UCU reps have argued the widespread belief that the university’s opaque funding allocation model under-funds many STEM* subjects which are more expensive to research and teach, and called upon the senior management to be more open about the funding model and improve its approach, to properly fund all subjects instead of cutting jobs.
As you are probably aware, the university started a voluntary redundancy scheme in the Faculty of Biological Science and the School of Medicine last semester and the deadline for applications to the scheme has now passed. For more on the history of this, see the leeds.ucu.org.uk article: http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/vls-in-fbs-and-medicine/
Here is what has happened since we wrote that article:
Our regional UCU officer wrote to the VC to ask that compulsory redundancies are ruled out
The VC replied to say that she was unable to rule out compulsory redundancies
Our regional UCU officer replied with a ‘failure to agree letter’ saying we will not accept compulsory redundancies and asking to pause the consideration of any further voluntary redundancies until we are out of the current COVID crisis and until we’ve been properly consulted with full financial information. If an assurance cannot be given by the end of Monday, the regional officer will send a letter, entering into dispute with the university.
We’re planning a press release to make public that the university is planning to get rid of staff in some of the areas that might be considered most essential at this time.
We’ve also launched a petition – please sign and ask your colleagues at this and other universities to sign, plus alumni and anyone else with a connection to the university
While all this is happening, we’re also negotiating on our anti-casualisation claim and have made some progress in discussions with HR. See more detail on the claim
Across the university (for example via casework) and at every opportunity in our meetings with HR and senior management we’ve been fighting hard to persuade HR to renew as many fixed-term and fixed-funded contracts as possible and to provide us with more detailed information about which contracts are being considered for non-renewal and why. We’ve made some progress as HR are now reviewing all fixed-term contracts longer than three years and, where there is no reasonable justification, transferring those staff on to permanent contracts. We continue to push management at every opportunity that the university should not be ending anyone’s employment in the middle of a pandemic
If you have been on a fixed-term contract for 3 years or more, contact your local HR officer to say you believe you should be made permanent, and ask the branch for a caseworker if there are any problems.
Please do remember to sign the petition. We’ll be in touch soon with any developments.
Tim UCU Branch Secretary, on behalf of UCU committee
The UCU branch committee sends our thanks and support to schoolteachers in the National Education Union whose refusal to work in dangerous conditions forced the government to move more quickly in moving most school teaching online. Their action has made us all more safe.
The government has left continuing confusion about who should be working and who should be able to send their children to school, and what should happen when people who shouldn’t send their children to school are required to work. As a result, school attendance has been much higher than during the first lockdown meaning that teachers are less safe and the curb on the spread of the virus will be less effective, placing all our communities at further risk.
It is vital that university staff with school-age children can play our part in keeping school attendance low. Therefore, the UCU committee has written to the vice-chancellor and spoken to senior HR managers about the need to reduce workloads and extend the availability of special leave for staff whose role is not critical for the health or wellbeing of students, staff or society. We have impressed upon HR that it is not enough to say, “Do what you can,” or “Work when you can.” We need clear reductions in workloads to off-set the amount of childcare staff members will need to provide in their circumstances, so that those of us with childcare responsibilities are still able to achieve and excel within appropriate workloads.
Senior HR managers have indicated they also think most staff shouldn’t be classed as critical workers for the purposes of being able to send their children to school, because of the community responsibility of reducing the spread of the virus, and are considering UCU’s advice on dealing with workloads.
However, we are deeply concerned that University HR have rejected our request for a blanket extension of special leave provision. They have stated that staff should take special leave as necessary within the extended limit of ten days and if they need more than ten days they should talk to their head of school or service or local HR team and individual circumstances will be considered.
UCU University of Leeds branch joins with other unions in urging everyone to support primary and secondary school staff by not sending children to school if at all possible. We understand that some roles are genuinely critical to the health and wellbeing of students, staff, or society, but wherever possible staff must be supported to care for children at home, without detriment, in order to reduce the spread of the virus. If you have problems with your line manager or head of school or service not reducing your workload to enable you to do that, without working all hours to compensate, contact the UCU branch officers by email email@example.com.
Message from branch president Ben Plumpton sent to members Tuesday 5 January 2020
Happy New Year, and here’s hoping it is a better one than 2020…
I’m writing to let you know that Leeds UCU is working hard on your behalf related to the current lockdown and with regard to the seriousness of the increasing pandemic. In particular, we have asked the VC to:
Move everything possible (most teaching, research, support and administration) online again until Easter, i.e. going beyond the (current) Government guidance. This would be the safest thing we could do for our students, our staff, and the wider community. This university can do better than the government guidance, particularly considering how poor the government have been at taking on board scientific advice. And constantly changing arrangements are difficult for both students and staff.
Review the university provision to support parents and carers, to be more radical and generous in what is on offer, not expecting staff to care full time and work full time, and recognising that it should be OK for carers to do fewer hours and fewer things that they would normally do. (Full detail of our email on this copied below the email to members). We know that many of you have felt a need to keep some carers’ leave in reserve, in case of worse situations, but unfortunately management have taken the fact that few people have ‘used up’ their carers leave to mean there isn’t a problem. So we would encourage you, if you now have caring responsibilities as a result of school closures or any other issues, to make use of any remaining carers leave you have, and thereafter to speak with your line manager about further arrangements (see https://coronavirus.leeds.ac.uk/staff-advice/working-from-home/#balancing_caring_responsibilities)
The campus trade unions are also meeting with Health and Safety this afternoon and with HR tomorrow.
If you aren’t sure what’s going on in your area, or if you are asked to come onto campus despite the lockdown, contact your line manager or head of school/service. If you are concerned about their reply and need your union’s support, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your UCU department rep.
We’ll be writing again soon about what’s happening with FBS and Medicine redundancies, and also about our ongoing work on anti-casualisation. We are planning an extra General Meeting soon, probably early in February, so keep an eye open for notification of that.
Members voted in December to call a dispute if senior management won’t rule out compulsory redundancies in the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine. It’s important all of us in this branch check and update our membership details in case we move to a ballot.
You have the right employer and workplace. If you have moved jobs it’s important we only ballot those of us who are employed by the University of Leeds.
Your home address and email address are up to date
Your home address is your ‘preferred address’ for mailing unless you’re confident you will be working on campus even in a full pandemic lockdown
Your membership type. If you do paid work for the university you should have full membership. If you’re a postgraduate student who does paid teaching* directly for the university that should normally be fullfree membership. (Full free membership is only for postgraduate students – if you’re no longer a student please upgrade to full paying membership.) If you’re a postgraduate student who doesn’t do any qualifying paid work you should choose student membership not full membership – you won’t be eligible to vote in the ballot. If you have finished working at the university and not yet started a new job you should choose unemployed membership (which is free, up to a year) or retired membership if appropriate.
If we move to a formal ballot we will need to remove from the ballot any of us who won’t be in work for the potential period of industrial action. We’ll email members about this, but if you know now that you won’t be doing any work for the university for the rest of this academic year you can let us know now by emailing email@example.com.
(*Postgraduate students who do non-teaching paid work for the university which would come under the academic or academic-related constituency may also be eligible for full free membership.)