Messages of support have been flooding in (send to firstname.lastname@example.org) from UCU branches, campaign groups and concerned people from across the UK:
University of Cambridge
Dear colleagues at Leeds UCU,
I’m emailing on behalf of Cambridge UCU to express our support for your strike action.
The changes to Statute proposed by Leeds management will worsen staff protections, in particular through the ominous-sounding provision for ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ (SOSR), which threatens academic freedom as well as job security. After some consideration, SOSR was rightfully excluded as a grounds for dismissal in the Education Reform Act of 1988. That Leeds management is now submitting for confirmation Statutes enshrining it, in the teeth of opposition from staff, highlights how strong the case is for strike action.
We at Cambridge UCU are urging members and colleagues to sign the national UCU petition in support of your strike, and to write to your Vice-Chancellor calling on him to put a stop to the changes.
Branch Secretary, Cambridge UCU
Your efforts to enable Leeds University to sack staff for “some other substantive reason” opens the door to speculative and subjective charges being made. This catch all phrase undercuts principles of transparency and fairness and will act as a deterrent to critical and innovative thinking. I write on behalf of UCU lecturers and teachers at Croydon College. Our view of the University as a pathway for student progression has been diminished by your actions. We fully support the strikes at the University and would hope they make you reconsider your position on the issue
UCU Branch Secretary
South West Retired Members
Hello from the South West Retired members branch.
On behalf of the branch I am sending a message of support.
Jo Corke membership sec.
University of Hull UCU
It’s inspiring to see the strike action is going so well. No doubt the senior management will not be enjoying the adverse publicity and the way unions and activists are working so well together – and will get back around the table and remove SOSR soon.
Dear Leeds UCU,
I am reading the reports of your action with awe.
The solidarity shows us all what we need to do to defend our rights and education that is not simply moulders to desire for profit.
The teach-outs are teaching us ways to involve and organise
Sticking together is showing we can change things and win
London Metropolitan University
Solidarity to Leeds UCU
Your fight is brave determined and principled. It is clear that democracy and governance of our all universities needs to be put back in the hands of academics and students for the good of both. That is paramount in order to have a fair and excellent Higher Education system. Your strike and the strength and insight you and your students are gaining through it is inspirational. We gain strength through joining together in struggle.
Christina (London Met, Branch Secretary)
University of Sheffield
Keep going all at Leeds! Your efforts are inspiring, and we’re always so impressed in Sheffield with the levels of creativity that go into making the strikes noticed.
Fantastic effort, more power to your members. In solidarity.
Paul Errington NEC
Subject: Instituting a ‘sackers charter’
Dear Sir Langlands,
I graduated from Leeds in 1997 with a PhD and have now been at Lancaster University for twelve years as an academic. I wear the Leeds gown at graduation ceremonies. Academic freedom is vital to our universities. I have read your side of the argument and that of UCU and I am saddened that my alma mater is refusing to acknowledge the dangers that have been highlighted and instead is rushing to cast a long shadow on its reputation in the sector.
Please take courage, step back, listen, and spearhead the defence of academic freedom rather than its demise. It is not too late.
Dr Julie Hearn
Department of Politics, Philosophy & Religion, Lancaster University
Hackney Learning Trust
Our branch met yesterday and we shared details about your action. We want to send you a message of support and thank you for defending contracts against this worrying precedent that could impinge academic freedom.
We wish you every success in the dispute,
Anne-Marie O’Reilly – Branch Secretary
UCU Hackney Learning Trust Adult & Community Education Branch
Yorkshire and Humber Region Retired Members
Congratulations and solidarity from Yorkshire and Humber Region Retired Members Branch, UCU
Northumbria University UCU & Unison
Dear UCU LEEDS,
We have sent the following letter to your VC in the name of both UCU and Unison at Northumbria University:
Dear Sir Alan Langlands,
We support Leeds university call for 3 days strike. We agree dismissal for any other substantial reason is vague, arbitrary and something to be resisted and of importance to all academics.
We note that you staff have received an email from your Deputy Vice Chancellor Tom Ward (sent to all Academic and Academic Related staff) offering his own perspective on yesterday’s negotiations We note that Professor Ward emphasised that an academic member of the University Executive Group would decide whether academic freedom is threatened in any given case. We believe that this is patently prejudicial and we do not find it at all plausible that such a member of the University’s senior managerial group would rule against the interests of management in the kinds of cases you anticipate would arise.
Academic Leadership on Statute matters to UCU, and we think this is of key concern to all our members.
The DVC’s email neglects to mention that the University has stripped out the key protection of the right to a wholly independent medically qualified expert (not employed by the university) on the Ill-Health Appeal panel. The previous Statute provided for “a medically qualified chair jointly agreed by the Council and the member or, in default of agreement, to be nominated by the President of the Royal College of Physicians”
SOSR was explicitly excluded from Statutes in the 1980s because it was considered to be completely inappropriate in a university setting owing to the threat it poses to academic freedom. Our sector is different to many – that may be why many of academics chose to work in it!
Academic freedom is the lifeblood of a University, without it we risk becoming a sausage factory for research with far narrower scope, and with greater restrictions in our teaching and our ability to question and test.
The UNESCO definition of academic freedom also holds that “31. Higher-education teaching personnel should have the right and opportunity, without discrimination of any kind, according to their abilities, to take part in the governing bodies and to criticize the functioning of higher education institutions, including their own, …” – Academic and
Academic Related staff must have academic freedom for a university that is a truly enriching institution that contributes to our intellectual and cultural life.
In solidarity with Leeds UCU staff taking industrial action.
Julia Charlton Lorraine Brown
Branch Chair Branch Secretary
Northumbria University UCU Northumbria University Unison
University of Salford
Please convey our support and solidarity to our Comrades, our Sisters and Brothers at Leeds University in your struggle to retain your statutes at Leeds University. We at Salford University have suffered greatly since the loss of our statutes over a decade ago and it is so important that you are victorious in your struggle against your Employer. We now suffer the bitter experience of losing our statutes, we acknowledge your courage in taking direct action against your employer. Your struggle is our struggle at all Branches throughout the whole of UCU. We hope for the most powerful message to be sent from National UCU, including Academic Censure and Boycott. (Grey Listing) as well as provide you with all assistance as the struggle continues and intensifies.
Also please let us know who to send a cheque in support of the hardship caused by loss of pay to your strikers and the name and address to send the cheque to.
Our Vice President has recently sent a letter to our members in Salford . Please let us know how we can further help you in your action.
Yours in Solidarity
Glyn Heath Chris Sheehy Helen Franks
President Vice President Secretary
Queen Mary University London
QMUCU Branch Committee wish to send our wholehearted support for your strike action on this crucial issue.
This is a fundamental issue that not only affects your branch, but is nationwide, and is important that this issue is brought to the fore. This is a disturbing “precedent”, and you should be given as much support as possible.
We will encourage our members to write to your VC,
“I have read about your plan to introduce ‘some other substantial reason’ as a grounds for dismissing staff at the University of Leeds. I don’t think this is fair and reasonable in a University. Your existing procedures already contain the appropriate grounds for dismissing staff in an academic institution and have worked well for decades.
Please avoid further disruption and remove this controversial clause from your proposed Statutes.
At QM, there are no longer Statutes, and therefore such means can be introduced by means of Ordinances only (ie via Council). (http://www.arcs.qmul.ac.uk/governance/council/charter/)
I have little doubt that it is being considered now.
We wish you every success.
In solidarity, on behalf of Queen Mary UCU Branch
University of Leicester
I write with a message of solidarity from the University of Leicester UCU. Best of luck with your three day strike this week. As it happens, a couple of our officers are Leeds residents and will be coming along to show support. Those who are not will be thinking of you!
Gareth Brown (Branch Co-secretary)
UCU Past President (2014-16)
Best wishes to all UCU members at the University of Leeds for your strike action this week. You are right to defend job security and academic freedom. I hope you are successful in your campaign and that your employer abandons attempts to worsen your contractual rights. I am sure many UCU members are inspired by the fight you are putting up at the University of Leeds.
Leeds Beckett University
May I express my solidarity with you
Don, Leeds Beckett University
University College London (UCL)
Dear Sir Alan
I write to add my voice to the many who are calling on you and the University Council to withdraw the proposals to add a generic and non-specific ground for redundancy and to weaken the medical and legal integrity of your appeal committees.
Leeds is an outstanding, a wonderful university. In my own field it has some very distinguished, brave and significant scholars for whom the backing of a strong institution, proud to defend academic freedom must be crucial. It will do nobody any good to weaken these freedoms.
A few years ago we at UCL had a similar battle to wean our Council away from such changes. We (the staff and students, with supporters elsewhere) were victorious. Council and Provost had second thoughts and backed off. UCL has since gone from strength to strength.
(Prof) Michael Edwards
Chesterfield College UCU
On behalf of Chesterfield College UCU, I would like to send you our support and solidarity for your strike days next week in defence of Statute protections and against SOSR. I have signed your petition, emailed the Vice Chancellor and will be circulating details so that others can do the same, including at our Regional Committee meeting tomorrow.
At Chesterfield College, proposals were put forward to alter the Statutory Articles and Instruments of the Corporation in 2016 in a deleterious manner, but I’m pleased to report that due to the branch’s actions we were able to stop these proposals in their tracks, and we wish you all the best in doing the same with your dispute.
Wishing all the best for the strike days and for a satisfactory resolution to this dispute. If there is anything further we can assist you with then please do not hesitate to let me know.
Vice Chair, Chesterfield College UCU
In Support and Solidarity.
Warwickshire College branch and committee
Tower Hamlets Campus
Hi UCU Leeds,
Good luck with the strikes next week. After reading your petition I can see why you are very worried and very angry. Escalating strike action is always the best way to get management to take us seriously.
The best of luck!
Ian Crosson, UCU memb sec
The University of The Arts London UCU
Dear sisters and brothers full solidarity and support in your struggle against the present bullying culture of arbitrary application of management power..
Your struggle is ours – Dr Tony Sullivan – UAL UCU (London College of Fashion Branch Secretary)
UCU Southern Regional Committee
Dear Sir Alan Langlands
I write as the Chair of the UCU Southern Regional Committee. Universities in our region are dismayed and deeply concerned that you are proposing to invoke ‘SOSR’ to dismiss staff at Leeds university. This is a retrograde step in industrial relations for which there is no justification at Leeds University nor any other in the UK.
UCU, collectively, will rigorously defend members at Leeds University. The Southern Region of Universities is calling on you to cease this action and to consult and negotiate meaningfully with Leeds UCU.
Chair of UCU Women Members Standing Committee
Support and solidarity to you next week in your 3 days of strike action.
My branch (Newcastle) has already sent support. But I wanted to send my additional support as Chair of the national WMSC.
Your fight is our fight
Liverpool Hope University UCU
Dear Vice Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands,
As a former student of Leeds University (Philosophy and English Lit graduated 1991) I am shocked and appalled to read that a disciplinary policy contains the words ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR). Since my excellent education at Leeds Uni, of which I am very proud and grateful, I have since become a Senior Lecturer myself and Chair of the UCU branch committee here at Liverpool Hope University.
Please consider withdrawing SOSR from the document and to sit down with union reps and come to an amicable arrangement.
Yours Sincerely and in Hope
Dr Gary Anderson
Newcastle University UCU
Dear Sir Alan,
I am writing in my capacity as president of the Newcastle University branch of UCU and on behalf of our branch committee to express our opposition to your plans to revise the Statutes of Leeds University to allow termination for “some other substantial reason”. We are also concerned about the removal of medical and legal expertise from panels handling dismissals.
I won’t waste my time or yours laying out the arguments yet again for why this is wrong for a university (or, indeed, any other competently run workplace). You are dealing with this issue and know full well the extent to which it undermines the essential mission of an academic institution to remove the protections of academic freedom. It is disappointing that anyone with your experience in managing a university would consider for an instant carrying out such changes, and it is evidence of the shocking disconnect between university managers and the academics who constitute the university that you are determined to do this in the face of overwhelming opposition from the staff. That is very poor leadership.
Instead, I would invite you to consider the implications of this for the reputation and future of Leeds University. Every minute that this dispute continues, and every time someone reads and email about it (as, for instance, when the members of my branch read the email we are sending in support of our colleagues at Leeds), and every time someone signs that petition, Leeds University loses a little bit of the respect and value and prestige that its academic staff have worked to build up over many years. The damage you are doing to the institution will take years to rebuild. If you prevail in this damaging action, what have you won? You have made it easier to get rid of people. Corporate restructuring experts from the 1980s would applaud the accomplishment. But you will have made it much more difficult to recruit and retain the kind of successful staff the university needs to rebuild its reputation. Who would go to Leeds after this except someone who has no better options? I would certainly add Leeds University to my list of places to warn my own graduate students and junior colleagues away from. And who would stay if they can go somewhere that will provide them with respect and security? You will see a steady erosion of your best and most capable people, and the demoralisation of the rest. I suppose there will be a small boost in performance out of fear, for whatever that is worth.
I cannot imagine that this is the legacy you want to leave when people think about your tenure as Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, and I would encourage you to reconsider this ill-judged venture.
On behalf of Newcastle University UCU
Student National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
Hi, I’m Chris, one of the North reps for the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC- we’re a student activist group campaign for free education). We’ve heard about your strike, and would like to offer our solidarity! If there is anything we could do to help, please let us know!
Ruskin College, Oxford
Dear UCU members, we are writing to offer you solidarity with your industrial action against your employers
Please do let us know if we can offer you any help
Chair – Ruskin College UCU Branch
Solidarity from Sandwell College. Thank you and the UCU branch at Leeds University for making this important stand. I have personal experience of SOSR, it was used when I was victimized and sacked. This attack from your management must be resisted.
We stand with you.
Dave Muritu, Sandwell College Branch Secretary and NEC
Dear Lesley and UCU Leeds Uni
Sending solidarity from Lambeth College and from London Region. We are impressed that you are moving to three days. Escalation is the only way to show your management you really mean it.
I hope you crack them and get this SOSR removed. We’ve had enough trade union victimisation already and this policy will make it even easier to sack staff and victimise more reps.
Please let us know how else we support you, where to send donations and how to help raise the public profile of your excellent strike.
UCU London Regional Secretary and Joint Branch Secretary Lambeth College UCU
Solidarity greetings and good luck.
Marion Hersh, Glasgow and UCU Scotland
And from Northumbria university branch.
This is an important fight for us all.
We support the strike to defend the conditions of service
Teesside University UCU
On behalf of the Northampton University Branch let me extend our solidarity with our colleagues at Leeds in their campaign in defence of the statutes and management’s attempt to gain additional powers to sack staff.
Ron Mendel, UCU Branch Chair
I am writing to you to express my solidarity with you.
SOSR is another step in the process of creating a precarious and insecure work environment and we must oppose it wherever it is introduced.
Health and Safety Officer at UCU Northampton.
Solidarity and fraternal greetings from Doncaster College branch. Your struggle is our struggle.
Rodney Challis, Doncaster
Solidarity from Southampton. As we all enter these discussions re Statutes and Ordinances, it’s good for the entire membership to understand what is at stake.
Prof Laurie Stras
Hi to all at Leeds
Good luck and solidarity from the West Midlands, we will be sharing and supporting using your resources.
(West Midlands chair and NEC FE for Midlands)
City and Islington College
Solidarity greetings from City and Islington College.
If you have a collection sheet please forward so that we can raise money for your strike.
Much solidarity to you at Leeds
Londonmet stands with you and we will do whatever we can.
We know all too well the struggles to save conditions and jobs in a university. Good luck with your strike and stay strong.
Christina (Londonmet UCU Branch Secretary)
Good luck and best wishes to Leeds from Brighton University UCU.
– Mark Abel
Solidarity from Bradford College. Attacks on our members are across both HE and FE, UCU members whether in either sector need to stand together.
Geraint Evans, Bradford College Branch Secretary
Can I echo these messages of solidarity from myself as FE disabled members rep on the NEC and I am certain for all of our members.
SOSR is becoming the tool of choice to victimise reps.
We must and will stand with you to defend our members from this pernicious attack
You have my personal and branch support in your battle against a most odious piece of wording to be included in your statute. It is an attack on academics and will stifle debate and academic freedom overall. We at Teesside have just recently turned back a proposal from HR to discuss a policy around the introduction of SOSR which at the moment has been successfully turned back as we refused to even discuss it.
Keep up the fight
Yours in Solidarity
Paul, Deputy Chair and NEC
Paul Errington LLM, Msc, Bsc Hons, Pg Dip Med Ed
School of Health and Social Care.
Deputy Chair UCU Teesside Branch
City, University of London
Please accept our message of support and solidarity for your current action. We hope you are successful – good luck!
UCU City, University of London Branch President
Sheffield Hallam University
Fully support your action.
Dr Mike Beaken
Sheffield Hallam University