Text of email message to all members from University of Leeds UCU president Vicky Blake that we have been unable to send because the university email list system is down:
At today’s Emergency General Meeting members voted for three days of strike action and to ask the national union to trigger the process of censure, then academic boycott of the University of Leeds. The text of the motions is pasted below this email. Following the meeting, I wrote to our Regional and National UCU offices to inform them of the votes; they will compile the necessary paperwork to write formally to University of Leeds management in the coming days.
What this means:
The three-day strike (11 – 13 October) represents a marked escalation in the dispute between UCU members and the university senior management, and signifies UCU’s very real and deep concerns. The dispute is considered of national significance by the national union: members representing branches across UCU confirmed this at UCU Congress 2017 (our union’s democratic policy making body). The industrial action is over the management seeking to impose changes to the university statutes, including the introduction of ‘dismissal for some other substantial reason’ (SOSR) which UCU says amounts to a sacker’s charter. UCU believes SOSR gives too much freedom to managers to dismiss staff and argues that it would make jobs even less secure and that insecurity puts academic freedom at risk as staff may feel pressured not to voice opinions or publish findings which are critical of the university or research funders. Read more about the reasons behind the dispute in this article
and in this letter printed in the Guardian
What do we need to do?
All members are asked to participate in the strike action. In deciding to strike, members at today’s meeting also confirmed UCU’s longstanding commitment to support our most vulnerable members through the establishment of provision to assist members who may incur disproportionate financial hardship through taking action. We have already initiated proceedings to establish the legal and bureaucratic parameters of our hardship fund. We will update you on this as soon as we have definitive national advice. Please feel reassured that there is existing union policy in this area, and please do contact us if you have concerns you would like to discuss.
We would also like to remind all members that our Action Short of a Strike
(ASOS) is still active, as the dispute is currently ongoing (please refer to this FAQ
Our current ballot is active until 20 October 2017 because the new anti-trade union laws (Trade Union Act 2016) mean there is a 6 month “guillotine” hanging over how long any ballot can remain open. Today, members voted to hold a continuation ballot in order to pursue a satisfactory outcome from this dispute, in defence of academic freedom and for the retention of protections we stand to lose from the Statutes that govern our university if changes are imposed.
All members can also sign UCU’s petition here
– please share this widely with colleagues and interested parties.
As ever, UCU urges University of Leeds management to return to meaningful negotiations with us; we would like to find a solution which removes detrimental changes to the Statutes which govern our University.
Please note: I am working to contract as part of industrial action UCU is taking at the University of Leeds in our dispute with management over changes to Statutes, including the introduction of a dismissal process for “some other substantial reason” (SOSR) and the loss of medical and legal chairs in some procedures. This may mean there is some delay in my response to you. You can read more about our dispute on our website: http://www.leedsucu.org.uk
Uni of Leeds UCU President – please ask me about joining your trade union.
UCU NEC Representative (National Seat – Higher Education)
UCU believes in and campaigns for secure contracts, fair pay and fair conditions for all staff.
The motions passed by members at today’s emergency general meeting were:
This meeting notes:
- That UCU is in dispute with Leeds University management over detrimental changes to Statutes, which form academic and academic related staff’ terms and conditions and protections, notably in relation to academic freedom. The deleterious changes are:
- Introduction of the undefined ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ as grounds for dismissing staff.
- Removal of provision medically qualified chair for panels deciding dismissal for ill health;
- Removal of independent legally qualified practitioner for appeals against dismissal, other than in the University’s new proposed ‘substantial issues’ procedure.
- Removal of all procedures under statute 7 (the relevant Statute pertaining to this issue) into University Ordinances which are procedurally easier for the management to amend
- Members voted for industrial action to defend Statutes and members are currently engaged in Action Short of a Strike, in the form of working to contract
- Members went on strike for a day in June 2017.
This meeting believes it is necessary to escalate our action to win this dispute, along with continuing to campaign on this issue.
This meeting resolves:
- To call three consecutive days of strike on 11, 12 and 13 October 2017.
- To make arrangements for financial support for those members who would suffer hardship.
- To re-ballot members for further industrial action, including further strike action, if the university remains intransigent. Additional forms of industrial action as suggested by members could be included in the ballot e.g. assessment boycott, REF boycott.
This branch notes that:
- The General Meeting on 24 April 2017 unanimously agreed to put a motion to UCU National Congress asking the union nationally to defend academic freedom by moving to the stepped procedure of censure and academic boycott of the University of Leeds, if our dispute was not resolved (motion HE10, text appended below)
- The UCU National Congress on 27 May 2017 passed that motion.
- University management have not changed their position on dismissal for some other substantial reason, or on the chairs for dismissal appeals and ill health dismissals.
This branch therefore resolves to request that the National Executive Committee of UCU formally implements a call for the international censure, then academic boycott of the University of Leeds.
For reference: HE10 University of Leeds
Conference notes that UCU has declared a dispute of national significance with the University of Leeds over its proposed new Statutes, and that UCU has balloted its branch membership for industrial action, following an indicative ballot showing a 74% majority in favour of industrial action.
- the introduction of a new procedure for dismissal for Some Other Substantial Reason
- the withdrawal of the right to an independent, medically qualified expert at Appeal stage in Ill-Health procedure
- the withdrawal of the right to an independent, legally qualified expert at Appeal Stage for all other procedures in Statute
Conference resolves that if the University does not reach agreement with UCU, UCU will move to defend academic freedom by moving to the censure, then academic boycott of the University of Leeds.