Restricting dismissal in universities to protect academic freedom: the Lord Chancellor in 1988

To have academic freedom you need to have job security – the two go hand in hand. The decision to exclude the right of ‘dismissal for some other substantial reason’ from universities was a deliberate one, taken in Parliament back in 1988.

While ‘dismissal for some other substantial reason’ (“SOSR”) exists in employment law (it has done since 1978), it was specifically excluded from the statutes governing universities for reasons relating to the role of academics and the nature of a university. Part of the debate around the 1998 education reform bill focussed on how far academic tenure – job security for academics – should be removed with the new act. In the section below the Lord Chancellor replies to questions in the House of Lords about an amendment to the bill. Both times, he explicitly ruled out dismissal for some other substantial reason.

“I cannot stress enough the fact that academics are not deprived of the protection afforded to others by the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act. However, the situation of redundancy which enables them to be dismissed before they get to the stage of claiming compensation or payment is more ample in its definition of redundancy than appears in the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act.
On the other hand, that Act allows dismissal for some other substantial reason. We have not followed that, so if one is to compare the position of the academic with the position of a person covered under the employment protection legislation, one must take the whole of it. The person covered under that legislation can be dismissed not only for good cause in relation to conduct and the like, but for some other substantial reason. We have missed that out but we have made a wider definition of redundancy applicable here in order to cover the particular situation of the university.”

and again:

“In the ordinary case, I agree with the noble Baroness that the definition of redundancy given in the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act is narrower than this. However, I have pointed out that one must take the whole of that Act into consideration. It allows dismissal for some other substantial reason than the specified reasons, but we have not followed that provision. Therefore one must take account of the whole situation including the fact that the employment protection legislation is still available after the dismissal.”

Hansard link: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1988/may/19/education-reform-bill-1

We must not allow further erosion of our job security. We don’t want to see ‘dismissal for some other substantial reason’ in the armoury of options for managers who want to get rid of someone. We continue to call on the University of Leeds senior management to reconsider this course of action.

Please support the strike on Thursday 22 June.

Statutes – our campaign and industrial action

You will have received  the Vice Chancellor’s email yesterday urging you not to take part in the industrial action voted for by UCU members. We do appreciate the seriousness of taking industrial action on an open day but we feel this is warranted by the seriousness of the threat we face from SOSR. Please support the action as this gives us the best chance of making progress on the dispute.  Here’s what we are asking you to do (in order of importance):

  1. Strike on Thursday 22 June.  Do not go into work, and do not reschedule activities planned for that day. You don’t need to tell anyone in advance that you will be taking strike action, but should answer truthfully if you are asked after the strike.  Please volunteer to help on the picket lines/info stall at the Open Day – it’s fun, perfectly legal, and may involve elephants. Email ucu@leeds.ac.uk to let us know what times you can help.
  2. Action Short of a Strike (ASOS) begins on Friday 16 June and goes on until the dispute is settled. We will be working to contract – we anticipate the FAQ and guidance will follow from HQ later today.
  3. UCU info and publicity stall, Saturday 17 June (9 am to noon), outside the university, handing out information to Open Day visitors. Email ucu@leeds.ac.uk to let us know you’re coming.
  4. UCU info and publicity stall, Friday 23 June (9 am to 2 pm), outside the university, join the demo on your breaks, or use a half day holiday. Email ucu@leeds.ac.uk to let us know what times you’re coming.

The substantive issues concerning our statutes, over which we were all balloted, remain as follows:

  • Inclusion of an option to dismiss (‘terminate’) staff for “some other substantial reason” (SOSR). (This is evident as point 8e under Part IV of the now titled “Ordinance: procedure for the resolution of substantial employment issues”);
  • No medically qualified chair for panels deciding dismissal for ill health;
  • No independent legally qualified practitioner for appeals against dismissal, other than in the new ‘substantial issues’ procedure.

Unity is our strength; please continue with your support for the campaign and the industrial action. We will continue to publish more information on our website – please keep an eye on this website and follow us on Twitter (@leedsucu) for updates. 

If you have any queries about this, please contact ucu@leeds.ac.uk

UCU members vote to strike over Statute changes

UCU members of the University of Leeds local association have voted to strike and take industrial action short of a strike as part of our dispute with the University of Leeds management over their intention to make detrimental changes to the university’s statutes, including the catch-all sacker’s charter “dismissal for some other reason.”

The ballot results are as follows:

Trade dispute between UCU and the University of Leeds over the university’s proposals to make changes to the employment statute.

The ballot closed at noon on Friday 26 May. The response to the questions you were balloted on is as follows:

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of strike action?

Number of ballot papers returned: 782
Number voting YES: 524 (67.3%)
Number voting NO: 255 (32.7%)
Number of papers found to be invalid: 3

Are you prepared to take industrial action consisting of action short of strike?

Number of ballot papers returned: 782
Number voting YES: 602 (77.3%)
Number voting NO: 177 (22.7%)
Number of papers found to be invalid: 3

You can see the full scrutineers report on the UCU website

Thank you to everyone who took part in the ballot. It is so important for a trade union to make our decisions collectively and democratically. We will be in touch shortly about the next steps.

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 ‘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.

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.