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.
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
Would students want to be taught by people who are afraid to lose their jobs if they step out of line?
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.
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