We have recently received examples of how ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ (SOSR) for dismissal is being used at a few universities where it slipped through without a fight.
National UCU realised the urgency of the situation and passed a motion at Congress in 2016 to ensure that all statute negotiations now go through a national UCU ratification panel.
Warwick are currently fighting the same issues as us and we believe that their Senate has rejected the changes to their statute. Proposals for SOSR have also been rejected at Sheffield and UCL.
We’re not able to give full information about the examples elsewhere because most of the cases are subject to gagging clauses, but here are some details:
At a large Russell Group university SOSR has made it easier to dismiss staff on fixed-term contracts: HR are using this as an alternative to redundancy. UCU at that university (and several others around the country) are now saying ‘We wish we had put up more of a fight against SOSR at the time’.
At a prestigious university in the South of England, a UCU member raised concerns of racism by senior managers and possible fraud. The member was cleared of gross misconduct but then dismissed under SOSR because the senior managers did not want to work with them.
An academic at another university was victimised for criticising the university and then dismissed using SOSR.
The website ‘HR Expert’ says:
Examples of dismissals that could be held to be for “some other substantial reason” include:
the dismissal and re-engagement of an employee to impose new contractual terms and conditions that the employee has refused to agree;
We hope these examples will help you understand that the introduction of SOSR is a very serious issue and it is vital that we all come out on strike next week to oppose it.
Don’t forget that the university’s HR manager circulated an email some time ago which gave examples of when SOSR might be used here: “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.
Some of you will remember Ann Blair, former UCU Branch President. Ann, now retired, worked in the School of Law and was involved in negotiations around Statutes. Ann carefully investigated the law around SOSR. Ann has followed the dispute and has contacted us to say that she is fully in support of our strike.
It is very important that we have as many people as possible on the picket lines on each of the three strike days next week. Please email branch administrator Alan Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the list of pickets. If possible, please include which days you are available and please add your mobile number.