VC accuses staff representatives of lying
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, Michael Arthur, has responded to UCU’s General Secretary, Sally Hunt, accusing local UCU leadership of lying. Complaining about a recent Campaigns Update sent to all UK HE UCU members, he stated in a public letter that we “contend that ‘over a thousand jobs are under threat’ at Leeds, and that the ‘university seeks to impose a method for attaching a numerical score to all members of academic staff””. He then claims that “[n]either statement is true, and I invite you to withdraw them both”.
By claiming that these statements are not true, he is accusing your representatives of lying, and using his privilege to publish on the University of Leeds website to attempt to set a false version of elements of our local dispute into the wider public consciousness.
But UCU has evidence of both the details he complains about, and it is alarming that our own VC seems unaware of what is going on not only in his university, but in the offices immediately around him.
Over a thousand jobs are – in fact, and in black and white – covered by current Section 188 notices of redundancy that the UCU has recently received from Michael Artur’s office. In law, a Section 188 notice (Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, 1992) needs only be sent to trade unions if – AND ONY IF – there is a threat of staff being made redundant. See here for the letter of the law, should there be any doubt. Therefore, unless the University wishes to withdraw that notice, all jobs covered by it are effectively at risk. It is unlikely that all those jobs will disappear in bulk, but we never claimed that. The VC’s attempt to distort our words has already caused outrage across the campus here at Leeds.
The UCU also has a copy of lists of staff in an entire school, ranked by a basket of research measures and ranked again separately by student feedback. The VC’s statement that the University is not pursuing such measures is given the lie by this ‘smoking gun’. What is more worrying is that the VC seems to be unaware that this has happened. Perhaps he doesn’t talk to his senior managers often enough. One of two things happened here: either local managers were instructed to rank staff numerically against each other or they jumped at the opportunity to do so now that the University has piloted the Academic Activity mechanism, demonstrating yet again that a culture change in the University has resulted in no proper checks and balances operating to restrain the worst instincts of some managers. What faith can staff at Leeds have if this behaviour from management is either a result of instructions from VCEG, or happens regardless of any notional principles of best practice? One of the objectives of our dispute is to see an improved culture of collegiality that will engage staff in decision making, create clearer information and encourage ownership of solutions to the issues we face. Part of the March 2010 agreement centred on constitutions to help achieve this, but University management have failed to implement these simple safeguards.
The UCU is able to evidence all our statements. We would invite the VC to evidence this statement he has made to Sally Hunt: “Staff here are fed up with UCU’s distortion of events at Leeds”. How has he come about this opinion, stated as fact? Does anyone recall being balloted? Has the VC walked around departments asking people? Was this question snuck in the recent welfare survey? Or has he just taken a sounding from the people working around him? Are the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group – if it indeed their opinion reflected here – representative of the whole University? Are members happy that an unelected member of staff elects to speak on their behalf about elected staff representatives in this way?
Members voted to go to ballot, and so we at Leeds UCU have enacted the will of the membership. Now your elected representatives are publicly accused of lying.
We recommend you vote ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ on your local ballot paper, which you should all have received by now.