University of Leeds management looks increasingly isolated in making its threat to dock 25% pay for every day staff refuse to reschedule classes lost to strike action, having already docked those days’ pay. It has been widely noted that in the letter from the Director of HR on 15 February, reference was made to a “voluntary & ex-gratia” payment of 75% for full days worked by members who observe UCU’s industrial action short of a strike (ASOS) by not rescheduling teaching activity. We have opposed this by writing to the Vice Chancellor and senior management, and we appeal to all members to spread the word by social media.
Sheffield UCU have just succeeded in getting their senior management to drop punitive ASOS deductions (they began by saying they would deduct 100% for ASOS). Others have also started to shift – see: ucu.org.uk/article/9372/Universities-threatening-big-pay-deductions-risk-prolonging-strikes
What’s going on?!
Some members have expressed confusion, which is in part due to the way the HR letter is worded but also due to incomprehension that the University could be acting this way. Key points are:
- All members are urged to observe all aspects of the strike and Action Short Of Strike. See the [FAQ] and our guidance on what to say about it if asked [here].
- Members who did not teach as a result of strike, and who then observe ASOS by refusing to reschedule or rearrange that teaching will see deductions of 25% made to their salary. This is an outrageous attempt to divide and rule our members and would undermine the strength of the strike if members feel pressured into doing this. Please do not yield: we will all support you!
- Members who did not have teaching to cancel (either because they don’t teach in their role or through chance of timetabling) will not see a deduction of 25% unless they otherwise breach their contract (for example, if you refuse to cover for a colleague who has already refused to reschedule teaching, if “covering” is in your contract)
- Yes, this is all legal. We have bad laws. If they give notice (which they did with the 15 Feb letter) employers are legally entitled to dock pay for ASOS, up to 100%. This has never happened before at Leeds and management is presenting their decision to begin as if it is benevolent to pay staff 75% of wages for a full day’s work, on the grounds that refusing to reschedule/cover is a breach of contract (it is a breach protected under industrial action law as we voted to include it in ASOS). That does not mean it is “right” in a moral or ethical sense, and UCU HQ staff are also investigating lines for legal challenge in some circumstances.
- Other UCU branches have fought back similar (and worse) threats. Yesterday Sheffield University backed down over their plans to deduct 100% of wages for staff refusing to reschedule classes (or cover) under ASOS.
- We need to show university senior management that it is a mistake to behave this way towards staff. The number one way to do this is to continue making the strikes massive and to back those strikes up up with ASOS. Hold the line!
What to do:
- Share our open letter on social media and with family and friends
- Ask people to write to the Vice Chancellor and tweet the University (@UniversityLeeds) copying us in (@leedsucu) with links to the open letter, expressing disgust.
- The above may be particularly effective if coming from University of Leeds alumni and/or potential students / family of potential students.
Are you a Head of Department or similar?
Are you willing to speak up about the impracticality and unfairness of insisting teaching be rearranged, noting we have set out objections along these lines in our open letter? Please add your voice to this issue.
This is our open letter: leedsucu.org.uk/ucu-calls-on-university-senior-management-to-drop-asos-25-deduction-plan