The University from its privileged position of emailing all staff and all students has made a number of comments regarding the UCU and its Officers. Here we address some questions raised by you, our members arising from the university wide communications.
Who actually pulled out of negotiations and why?
University management pulled out of negotiations for a second time. As you will know, their reasons have been given many times in their communications with all staff. Essentially, they have accused us of acting in bad faith.
When, in spite of our significant ballot mandate, UCU members called the three day strikes off, we all expected a serious response from the side of university management. However, no progress whatsoever was being made on any of the 13 university reviews, in particular the FBS review, which most immediately affects our members’ jobs and conditions of service.
It was therefore the view of your negotiators, and subsequently the UCU committee and EGM that management were dragging out the negotiations in order that our legal mandate for industrial action would run out. Not enough progress had been made in order for any of us to allow this to happen. UCU remains committed to a negotiated settlement and we hope that the management return with speed and sincerity into talks.
Why have we not responded to the management documents?
We have we not put our documents in the public domain because we remain committed to the Acas conciliated negotiations – believing that they offer the best avenue for a negotiated settlement for all of our members. If documents are to be part of Acas conciliation, then they must remain confidential until agreement is reached.
We believe that the current proposed document can form the basis of a substantive and very good agreement for our members but at this stage it remains a proposal. Although the university has breached the confidentiality of the Acas talks, (The Vice Chancellor insisted on “Confidentiality in perpetuity” at the beginning of the talks), we hope that by maintaining the confidentiality of our documents the Acas conciliation may continue.
A number of elements of the agreement as it currently stands are missing from the management documents (http://www.leeds.ac.uk/comms/financial/proposals/). However, we do not believe that negotiating on the web is the way to resolve this dispute.
Why was an ‘agreed’ statement issued on Tuesday lunchtime and then the UCU voted for strike?
The UCU notified Acas that a recap of the negotiations was necessary because the legal mandate for industrial action was running out and that as such a recommendation from the UCU committee needed to be made to the EGM on the Wednesday. We proposed that the document that led to the suspension of our strike action on the 24th February should be compared against progress made since. No more and no less.
UCU informed Acas on Tuesday that the negotiators would not make any direct recommendation to the EGM because we needed first to discuss the joint statement and give an account of progress to a branch committee meeting. The UCU committee meeting then having taken a view on the agreed document, made its recommendation to the EGM for strike action on the basis that not enough progress was being made and that the management side were filibustering.
Regarding that document, it is as significant for what it does NOT say as for what it does. For example, it is clear that no progress had been made on any of the 13 university reviews, including Biological Sciences. These reviews affect hundreds of our members, including many who have taken or are considering taking voluntary severance and some who face compulsory redundancy. The very obvious need for urgency which was apparent on the 24th February when you called off our strikes has not been evident in management’s approach to the subsequent negotiations. Our ‘timeline’ (https://leedsucu.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/troubles-at-acas-and-todays-events/) indicates how the real threat of strike action concentrated management’s minds.
Why is the university carrying on with its reviews?
We believe that the Petition to the Visitor means that the University cannot carry on with these reviews at present. However, two more reviews were placed on the table (taking the total to 13) whilst we were negotiating and a ‘briefing document’ was issued in the School of English, together with a series of proposals and changes collectively called ‘planning’ by the University which affect pretty well every member of staff. (https://leedsucu.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/ucu-response-to-the-vcs-10-march-letter-to-all-staff/)
Where does the voluntary leavers scheme come in all this?
The UCU would hope that people would not take up the offer. However, we understand why people feel that they might. Jobs are lost in this way but the work remains, to be shared amongst those who remain. The chaos left behind by the VLS could readily be used by management as another excuse to restructure the university.
What does the university mean by ‘openness, transparency and a collegial’ approach to decision making?
We are not sure, which is why we are keen to see a definition of academic freedom and collegiality which goes beyond paying lip service. In particular we would like to see the deliberations of the Faculty Management Group which initiates university reviews to be placed on the web alongside those papers from the other university committees, in a timely manner, in accordance with the university’s own Code of Practice on Corporate Governance. For example, the way in which the School of English review was released during the Acas negotiations in the form of a ‘Briefing Document’ suggests a different view of collegiality to that of the UCU’s.
Thank you for taking the time to read our assessment of events. Let me reassure you that we remain committed to a negotiated settlement but must also do everything reasonable within our power, and with your agreement, to defend the jobs of our members and the quality of education at Leeds.