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UCU reminds our VC of his legal obligations

November 5, 2009

As this blog is being written, Malcolm Povey and Gavin Reid, your Leeds UCU president and vice-president, along with officers of the other two campus trade unions, are preparing to meet with the Vice Chancellor Michael Arthur to demand a position of no compulsory redundancies.

Professor Arthur, who is also chair of the Russell group of Universities, yesterday received a letter from the UCU which indicated to him that his ‘Economies Exercise’ is potentially unlawful. The full text of the UCU letter to the VC can be downloaded here from the Leeds UCU website. In it, Mark Oley, Regional UCU HE officer, points out to the VC his obligation under law to consult with your legally recognised representatives, and his failure to do so thus far. Mark points out to Professor Arthur that he “received a copy of your speech to the Senate and a copy of the ‘Economies’ paper that I believe has been sent, broadly speaking, to all Deans, Heads of Department and those involved in line management duties and responsibilities to a body called the Leadership Forum, that appears not to have any constitutional status under Charter and Statute”. He then goes on to outline some significant concerns:

  1. Notwithstanding statutory requirements and precedent […], there is a clear and local collective agreement between the employer and UCU as to how such information is both transmitted and managed before information is provided to managers for dissemination to staff.  This procedure has not been followed and, I submit, was wilfully ignored.
  2. I need to remind the employer of its duties in respect of European and Statutory Consultation provision in respect of consultation with trade unions.  Most clearly, and in particular […] following the recent Siemens decision by the ECJ, the actions of the employer in directing relevant line managers to propose ‘savings’ that will ultimately lead to cuts in staffing.  This seems to be clearly inconsistent with the employer’s statutory requirements.

After a series of demands made on your behalf, the letter then concludes:

Given that, in your own concluding remarks [of the Economies Exercise statement to Senate], you state that “we can be honest” and “transparent”, it is patently obvious that the reverse has been put in train, if I am frank and candid – which I intend to be given the massive and negative impact these “economies” will have on staff, students, Leeds as a City and conurbation (both social, economic, and educational).  Too much is at stake and my members, who have created this University, have nurtured it, supported by academic related staff and those low paid support staff, all caring about their institution and the students who attend it, expect more and will demand more.

Your statement is committed to ‘openness, honesty and transparency’.  Selecting at random some of the concerns that I have raised in this letter: no EIAs [Equality Impact Assessment – a legal requirement] have been undertaken.  Criteria has been “concluded” which may discriminate against certain groups of staff in certain occupations.  Academic freedom is to be ‘commodified’ and benchmarked against “financial envelopes.”  Equality considerations have been completely ignored.  I could go on.  I believe the point is well made.

We hope that the meeting this morning between the representatives of every employee group on campus will be taken seriously by our VC, who only last month ridiculed Academics as being incapable of problem solving in his Leader Column in the Reporter, and that he has begun to address the concerns outlined to him yesterday in this letter and set in motion full and open responses to the demands it makes.

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