It can be daunting to start from scratch with such a letter, so here’s a template letter you can use if you wish or use as a starting point:
Dear [your MP]
I am writing as your constituent to raise concerns about proposed new terms and conditions for staff at the University of Leeds, where I work. My trade union, the University and College Union, is in dispute with the university over this, yet the university management is seeking to push through changes at Privy Council imminently, so I am asking you to make some representations on my behalf.
Terms and conditions for academic and related staff at the university are governed by the university’s statutes. The management wants to ‘modernise’ these statutes – as I see it, to make it easier for staff to be dismissed.
I am concerned about three changes in particular:
- Removal of a medically qualified chair for panels deciding ill health dismissals
- Removal of an independent legally qualified chair for most dismissal appeals
- Addition of ‘some other substantial reason’ (SOSR) as grounds for dismissal (existing grounds are redundancy, capability, ill health, or conduct)
With regard to the latter change, the management has suggested that SOSRs might include ‘third party pressure’ (e.g. from corporations or government agencies who are unhappy with certain research findings), ‘breakdown in trust’ (e.g. anyone falling into disagreement with their manager) and ‘conflict of interest’ (e.g. whistleblowers who alert the public or wider academic community to certain issues or concerns). I therefore believe this change would pose a substantial threat to academic freedom.
UCU has been negotiating with management over statutes, including via ACAS, but the management has so far refused to withdraw any of these changes. We are now in an official dispute – we took a day’s strike action on 22 June and are continuing with action short of a strike (working to contract).
The changes to statute were agreed by the university’s Council, on which staff are in the minority. However, in order to come into force, the new statutes now need to be agreed by Privy Council. If approved by the Privy Council, it will be very difficult to reverse these changes, so I am therefore asking for your help in making urgent representations with a view to halting these changes. You can help by:
- Writing to the vice chancellor of the university, Sir Alan Langlands, asking him to reconsider the proposed new statutes and return to meaningful negotiations with UCU.
- Raising this with parliamentary colleagues who are on Privy Council, asking them not to agree to the changed statutes at the University of Leeds whilst our dispute is ongoing. (a list of Privy Council members is available here: https://privycouncil.independent.gov.uk/privy-council/privy-council-members/privy-counsellors/)
- Signing our petition at http://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-of-leeds-statutes-no-sackers-charter/
Thank you in advance for your help, and I look forward to hearing from you. Please let me know if you require any further information.
[Your address, because they’ll want to know you’re in their constituency]
If you’re not sure who your Member of Parliament is, you can search by your postcode at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/