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Ballot papers

January 13, 2010

All members are urged to look out for this envelope arriving in their pigeon-holes this or next week:

Ballot envelope

It is notable by this in the top-left hand corner:

electoral reform services

and contains this (recommended response indicated):

vote yes

and should then be returned in this:

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Concerned student permalink
    January 13, 2010 8:17 PM

    If you need to send a strong message to management and don’t want to hurt students, why do you need to involve us in your strike action?

    Why don’t you go on an administration strike whereby you mark our work, teach us, and return our work to us but give no information back to the management? Surely lecturers who went into the job because they like teaching would prefer to refuse to do paperwork until the issue is resolved rather than refusing to teach us. Apart from anything else I cannot imagine a single student in the university opposing plans for lecturers to go on an admin-only strike and your support from students would surely grow exponentially if we could support you without jeopardising our chances of graduating on time. The management, however, will be far from pleased if: they have no data or forms to play with, no data to submit to Hesa or anyone else, newspapers unable to put them in league tables and reporting on the delay, and students signing-up to support your protest.

  2. January 13, 2010 10:00 PM

    There has been long and extensive discussion about what kind of action we might take, and this has not yet been decided for certain. Certainly, administrative tasks need to be considered.

    Marking work and then not giving the grades to management is difficult, as people have been put under extreme pressure when trying that, and arguments about the legal owner of any data ensue. We’re happy to take comments and suggestions such as these, though. Please tell us more.

    All students (and indeed staff) should note that we are entering ballot as a final resort. In the first instance, we might expect the University to act within its own charter and statutes. It did not. Then we might expect the University to act within the law. We have strong evidence that suggests it did not, and are pursuing this. Then we might have expected the university to abide by its own regulations as regards consultation over change. It did not. Then we might have expected the University to abide by its agreed procedure when any union declares a dispute. It did not. Then we requested the assistance of ACAS. The university agreed to ACAS talks, but then brought forward the timing of ‘job matching’ in FBS to end 9am on the day of the first talks with ACAS. How do you interpret that action? So all we have left is a ballot.

    Please be aware that the single most effective way now of avoiding any strike action is a big turn-out to vote and a large ‘yes’ vote. This has proven time and time again to get management to the negotiating table and back to abiding by their own agreements and procedures. If that is what we all want (and nobody actually wants to lose a day’s pay to stand in the cold on a picket line) then that is what we must now support.

  3. Concerned student #2 permalink
    January 15, 2010 6:45 PM

    I can understand the issues that the first student has regarding industrial action by our lecturers – but we have seen that the university is not willing to play ball over this issue, as the UCU has acknowledged. Strike action is always a last resort, but in order to defend jobs, and defend the high standard of education that we currently enjoy, there appears to be no other option than to walk out.

    As students, we need to stand behind our lectures and back them in this strike. LUU have ignored the calls of students (who were present in unprecedented numbers at the Union Council meeting discussing the cuts) and refuse to support industrial action. The way that that we can all defeat these cuts is by standing together; students, lecturers and other workers on campus.

  4. Henry Raby permalink
    January 15, 2010 6:48 PM

    If UCU has to go on strike as a last resort, then myself and hundreds of other students will back them. It is of course undesirebale but the University has given the staff no other options. I reject LUU trying to manipulate students into guilt-tripping and blackmailing their staff and wholeheartedly support any action staff take to defend their jobs which, in turn, will defend MY education.

  5. January 15, 2010 11:59 PM

    I understand that taking strike action is difficult but would like to thank UCU for proposing the ballot. Lecturers striking can be one of the ways we can defend the higher education system in this country and I support your efforts 100%. The blame lies squarely at the feet of government and university management.

  6. January 16, 2010 12:10 AM

    Some left-wing Student Union officers and activists have organised this statement in support of Leeds UCU and in condemnation of the scab campaign being run by Leeds University Union:

  7. Biology Student permalink
    January 16, 2010 10:35 AM

    This is a very difficult situation for everybody involved. I have never believed in striking as I don’t think it is very effective, HOWEVER, each situation is different and if i was faced with losing my job I may feel differently.

    Regardless of whether I support striking or not, what I DO NOT support is Leeds University Unions mass email campaign. I completed the online web form on the union page thinking that ONE message would be sent to a central location. I had absolutely no idea that an email would be sent to each individual lecturer. I feel like I have been manipulated by LUU who did not clearly state that this would happen. I am extremely upset by some of the replies I had in return and by the fact that these emails may cause lecturers distress. Especially the possibility of receiving hundreds of them.

    It is important for people to express their opinions but this was no way to go about it and I for one will be complaining to LUU.

  8. PGTutor permalink
    January 16, 2010 2:06 PM

    Surely lecturers who went into the job because they like teaching would prefer to refuse to do paperwork until the issue is resolved rather than refusing to teach us.

    I understand this sentiment, and let me say, as a postgraduate tutor, that I agree with it wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, what anyone else would prefer in this instance seems to be the last thing the VC cares about. Figures released by UCU suggest that the University’s financial position is far more solid than the VCs office is making out, and 10% cuts are not only going to be devastating, but quite likely unnecessary.

    I was an MA student at Leeds when the lecturers struck over pay. I supported them then. Now, I am both student and staff, and please believe me when I tell you that there is not one single person in our department who can take on any more work. It’s not a matter of wanting to have a life apart from the job, it’s becoming a matter of people’s sanity. There are only so many hours in the day.

    Let me also remind everyone that the 10% cuts in staffing aren’t just aimed at lecturers. It’s an overall reduction of the workforce — that means everyone from the people who keep the campus clean and serve you meals, to the admin staff who process your exam papers and keep your departments running, the people who staff the libraries and keep them open late so you can study, to yes, the people who teach you and mark your work. Every single thing about your experience at Leeds would suffer under the VC’s plan.

    I understand that it is very difficult for undergraduates to know how much work goes on behind the scenes, but please have faith that the university’s staff would not for a minute consider going out on strike if there were any other way. We understand the impact this will have on our students. But we also understand that the impact upon the students, should we just stand by and allow the staff to be literally decimated, would be far, far worse.

  9. POLIS Student permalink
    January 16, 2010 2:14 PM

    As yet another concerned student I believe that job cuts would be enormously detrimental to the quality of education at Leeds, and as such I support the UCU in any action it takes (including strikes) in order to protect jobs and our education.

    Though the strikes might have a short term effect on students, I believe this is insignificant when compared with the long term damage job cuts would cause.

  10. Concerned student permalink
    January 16, 2010 3:52 PM

    The thing is that I am very fond of my lecturers and would be absolutly gutted if any lost their job; but this isn’t about one uni VC is it? Surely the cuts are related to the £900Million of cuts that the government is going to make to HE nationally which are going to be mostly divided between 140 Universities? Strike action at this university would mean we get our results back late and graduate late; I care a lot about my lecturers but am upset at the thought of an employer getting sick of waiting for me to get my results and choosing to hire one of my many competitors instead. I totally respect your right to defend your jobs but if I do manage to find someone to hire me in this recession I don’t want to lose that opportunity and be stuck on the dole because of a lecturer’s strike.

    There are numerous examples of action you could take short of a full strike which wouldn’t harm students and here are some of them:

    1. The fore-mentioned admin-only strike
    2. Publication strike – write your work but refuse to submit it until the matter’s settled (no publications looks bad for the RAE so they’d have to act).
    3. Phased striking – Strike outside of lecture times so that classes continue and essays are returned (with staff taking over from each other so others can go to classes/lunch/the toilet/) but you still get a big chanting crowd to draw the media’s attention – if combined with option 1. then you’d have time too.
    4. Meeting refusal – refuse to meet with anyone other than students, each other (informally or at the UCU), and ACAS until the dispute is resolved – There couldn’t be any Senate, or University Council, or any other like engagements because there wouldn’t be quorate – protest outside to check that they can’t make quorate without you so you can dive in if they can -> if you do have to dive into one or two meetings the protest will still cause major disruption.
    5. The ad-hoc -> Take the power back and confuse the university – chat as departments and decide between you where you want to teach your scheduled classes (this would work even better if you could swap rooms with colleagues in other departments) then put a notice on your office door each day telling your students where to go for their classes that day.

    The key to this would be to make the classes take place in the most random locations possible -> ensure that some classes take place in rooms normally reserved for official meetings (would be hard for them to chuck a whole class out of a room mid-lesson).

    The easiset way is just for you to negotiate room swaps with colleagues on the other side of the campus if French swapped with Mathematics for the day and Mathematics taught half in French half in the Ziff -> If you negotiate with key admin staff smaller classes could take places in their offices whilst they work in yours. It seems like a laugh at first but just wait until the management try to book a room for an important meeting with people from outside the university and no-one can tell them which are free (you can have a rule to keep a set group of rooms free for your own booking throughout as long as you don’t tell management which rooms they are) .

    This idea would mean that students had to look at your door and ‘go to the Ziff building on the left of the Parkinson building, floor 10, room 1’ – but this would be a minor inconvenience (if you keep the days and times the same) which, most importantly, would not harm learning or the date of our graduation at all so is not liable to be a major cause of upset for students.

    **These five are just the first 5 that came to mind I’m sure you can think of more such options.

    I don’t know if you can win this protest when the Government is giving the Higher Education budget a real battering (if £900 million of cuts are being announced before the election just wait until afterwards); but I don’t blame you for trying to protect your livlihoods if you can please think of ways to do it that don’t harm students.

  11. January 16, 2010 5:47 PM

    Many thanks ‘concerned student’. Firstly, let’s make it plain that the UCU has not yet decided what form of ‘action short of a strike’ they will take, nor is it necessarily certain that we will take any action at all. In fact, the bigger the turnout and the bigger the ‘yes’ vote, the more likely it is that management will negotiate meaningfully with its staff representatives. Secondly, the action short of a trike in 2006 went on for weeks, to within days of the exam boards, but no student graduated late to our knowledge.

    Many thanks for your suggestions for ‘action short of a strike’. These are very welcome indeed – if anyone else has any ideas, we’re happy to receive them. These shall be considered, though there are problems with each of these: An admin boycott is difficult to make work. The vast majority of our admin is student related, and to boycott this would mean classes, feedback, room bookings would all grind to a halt. This would cause far more damage to the student experience than, for example, an assessment boycott where day-to-day student life continues as normal. Also, there could be unfair pressure put on non-members to complete the admin tasks of striking members, something that cannot be done with an assessment boycott, for example. A publication or research boycott is difficult as in most cases there are legal contracts connected with research, and reneging on these would hurt us, but not the university. This would also give the University palpable reasons to turn down promotions later on. Phased striking is legally difficult, and has no material effect on the working of the University. Meeting refusal would simply mean that the very people whose decisions we are opposing would continue meeting without us to hear what they are planning, or able to argue against it. Your fifth suggestion sounds interesting, but it could cause chaos for students and staff, with the management simply looking down at us all being inconvenienced by ourselves and still able to get on with its plans.

    As for your last paragraph – well, let’s remember that Leeds is far better placed than most Universities to ride the government’s HE chaos storm. It has over £90M in reserve and has made ‘profits’ each year recently of between roughly £7M to £20M. The University is currently seeking to take out a loan for £35M, secured against future student fees (read that last bit again – ‘secured against future student fees’) so that it can extend its building programme. Now, that means it will need to find both £35M to pay back, and the tens of millions in interest. Why then, does it claim it needs now to save £35M? Is this a sensible way to administer our esteemed institution, when the outcome is inevitably damaging to the student experience, as acknowledged this week in the Guardian by our VC who says the cuts will be ‘devastating to staff and students’. Note that he said in his letter to staff (available online) last week that the recent government cuts announcement will not mean any further cuts beyond £35M at Leeds. So if they actually have the money not to make those cuts in the first place…

  12. Humphrey McColl permalink
    January 17, 2010 12:48 PM

    If it comes to a strike, I’m with you. Students are here for an education, not for swimming pools. If we have to fight to keep the lecturers who do such a brilliant job, so be it. It’ll be an honour. I stand by the staff.

  13. Sam Smith permalink
    January 17, 2010 4:44 PM

    I do not paticularly want to see the staff have to go on strike, it’s not good for you and it’s not good for us but I swear that I will be down on the picket line every day if it comes to it. Until then it looks like we have a student body to educate.

    Good luck UCU.


  14. jo wright permalink
    January 17, 2010 7:03 PM

    As a former student, I know the resources and support offered to me by Leeds Universities world-class lecturers was, and is, invaluable, as I draw on the wealth of knowledge and experience I gained at the University every day in my professional life. I am appalled at the treatment of skilled and exceptional staff, and the underhanded tactics I feel are being employed by the University, and inpart entered into by the Student Union (however unintentionally). A strike attempt to preserve the standard of teaching and learning at Leeds can only be a good thing in the long run, and I admire the strength of character of those willing to stand strong in a difficult situation. You have the full support of me and many of my colleagues in the Theatre industry. Best of luck.

  15. Chris permalink
    January 17, 2010 9:02 PM

    Im a student at Leeds and I cant believe the student unions campaign against strike action, i dont think the union exec is representative of the vast majority of students at leeds. Im sure that if you do take strike action most students will have the sense to see that other options are blocked and that strike action is the only way to put on the neccessary pressure to protect leeds uni from the cuts. I’m sure they will realise that any small interuptions in their education will still be a much better thing than accepting the huge cuts and attacks on your jobs and our education. Good luck.

  16. Citizen Stevie permalink
    January 18, 2010 12:28 PM

    I’m appalled by my Union [LUU]. I fully support the strikes. Leeds Uni staff have done nothing but good for me in my three years at University, and I’m disgusted that the Union would not only turn it’s back on the staff, but would mass email everyone encouraging them to lobby against the best interests of people who have our best interests at heart.

    I clicked the email. I wanted to edit it to send a message of support to everyone in my department instead. Cunningly, you can’t change the template at all, so that was totally out of the question.

    With you, UCU.

  17. Jarvis permalink
    January 18, 2010 12:51 PM

    It is interesting to note that since the LUU ‘Education First’ campaign sends an e-mail to ALL the academic staff in that student’s Faculty, a measure of student feeling about the campaign can be gained. In my Faculty, from a total of nearly 700 undergraduates I have received only one message and the student concerned appears to regret sending it (see message from ‘Biology Student’ above).
    Perhaps the LUU officials who support this campaign do not really represent the rest of the student body?

  18. POLIS Student permalink
    January 18, 2010 5:54 PM

    There is a facebook group for those students who support staff taking industrial action.

  19. Biology Student permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:01 PM

    I have complained to LUU regarding their campaign and they have now changed the wording on their website so it is clear exactly what their campaign email system entails. This will probably put anybody off from sending this mass email, I know it would have me if I had known.

  20. Henry Raby permalink
    January 20, 2010 2:40 PM

    Jak Codd said he would ask the I.T. people to move up the info for Defend Jobs at Leeds, defend education and Leeds University Against Job Cuts Facebook groups higher instead of right at the bottom but this still hasn’t happened…

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