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Progress in University and UCU discussions

March 11, 2011

The University and UCU met on 9 March to discuss the points at dispute between the two sides.

The meeting was constructive, and a series of further meetings is being scheduled to work towards a resolution of the dispute.

Roger Gair, the University Secretary, openly published a letter to Malcolm Povey, Leeds UCU President, yesterday about the contents of that meeting. View that letter here.

So where are we now?

There were three ballots, two national and one local, from which UCU received a legal mandate from its members to take industrial action against our employers. As can be seen by these recent events, this mandate has already begun to reap results. We have seen in the past, demonstrably, how the threat of strike action is the most effective way of focussing employer concentration on resolving disputes.

National Ballot 1: Members in more than sixty institutions have agreed to support both strike action and action short of a strike in order to defend USS pension rights. 64.55% of those who voted across the UK have supported strike action while 82.19% supported action short of a strike. The USS negotiators remain fully committed to reaching a negotiated solution if only the employers will show some willing to engage with us. The employers have refused ACAS involvement so far, and yesterday in parliament an Early Day Motion was tabled urging the employers to accept the union’s offer of ACAS arbitration.

Failing this, National Strike Days have been announced for Tuesday March 22nd and Thursday March 24th.

National Ballot 2:  Members have voted to take strike action and in favour of action short of a strike in the ballot on the 2010 annual claim. Overall 52.62% of those who voted supported strike action while 73.53% supported action short of a strike.

National Strike Day over Job Security and Pay has been declared for Thursday March 24th.

Local Ballot: —Overall 50.6% of members at the University of Leeds who voted supported strike action while 66.9% supported action short of a strike.

What does the UCU at Leeds want for its members?

  • Contrary to University management propaganda, the UCU has never said ‘No redundancies ever’. There is simply no case for redundancies in the current reviews.
  • —Placement of all staff displaced during restructuring into posts of at least of the same grade.
  • —Agreement and implementation of the School Constitutions, which was agreed last March. These are essential for proper consultation, collegiality and academic freedom.
  • —Abandonment of ‘Academic Activity Profiles’.
  • —Removal from the review process of Physics, Chemistry, English, Student Services, School of Modern Languages and Cultures and Humanities.
  • —An agreement regarding fixed-term contract staff.

Is a negotiated solution possible?

—You can be assured that UCU is engaging seriously with the university to reach a negotiated solution. Our priority is to protect members’ jobs without having to take industrial action if possible.
—We have taken up the VCs offer of high level talks without pre-conditions.
Progress on elements of the local dispute:

School Constitutions: University management are revising the draft model constitution and will let UCU have the next draft by the end of this week, we are promised. A further meeting of the governance sub-group should occur as soon as possible to discuss that draft with the aim of putting an agreed draft to the Senate for approval in May. See here for earlier blog posting on this issue.

Fixed-term contracts: The UCU’s comments on the proposed arrangements for the management of fixed-term contract will be discussed at a meeting of the ESRG’s sub-group (a meeting which has already been arranged). —The UCU side will let the University have comments in writing ahead of that meeting.

Faculty of Biological Sciences and Centre for Joint Honours: —FBS is at Stage 4 of the organisational change process.  Both sides are agreed that, to provide clarity for the staff concerned, we need to complete that stage as soon as possible, consistent with ensuring that the process is thorough and conducted properly.   UCU has concerns about the fairness of the process to date have been drawn to the attention of the management side, and a meeting is to be arranged soon to explore and respond to those concerns.  —CJH is just entering Stage 4, and discussions are under way with individuals who do not have a role in the new structure.

University failure to honour agreement on FBS: Concerns articulated in this earlier blog posting are still very much active.

Academic Activity Profiles:See here for earlier blog posting. We were able again to explain our concern about the potential link between the publication of academic activity profiles and the selection of staff for redundancy. Management agreed to convene a meeting soon to discuss ways of addressing UCU’s concerns.

Number and prioritisation of reviews: Areas where there is no serious risk of job losses should not be covered by the Employment Security Review Group processes. Management will come back to UCU soon, as discussed in the last JCUU, with some thoughts about the prioritisation of reviews and will try to arrange things so that the matter can be discussed at the same time as FBS and academic activity profiles. —The UCU pointed out that the new RAM changed the context within which all reviews were operating and that a ‘transparent’ financial model was required.

Review of the March 2010 agreement: The University side will meet with UCU officials in London on 28 March to review the agreement reached last March.

What next?

—We now have the legal right to strike in defence of jobs at Leeds. —We have made more progress in negotiations in the last three weeks than in the past three months, due principally, we believe, to our members’ resolve to support industrial action. —The university says it wants to ‘avoid redundancies if at all possible’,  we need to keep the possibility of strike action in defence of your colleagues open, until they have all been given jobs.
On 10 March, at an Emergency General Meeting of Leeds UCU members voted in favour of:
An ‘All out’ National strike action in Defence of Pensions, Job Security and Pay on 22nd March and 24th March.
—Activating our local strike ballot by taking strike action on 24th March alongside the National Strikes, minimising disruption to students.
—Keep Action Short of a Strike in reserve
One Comment leave one →
  1. An academic permalink
    March 14, 2011 9:18 AM

    It’s a pity that UCU members had to threaten strike action before the university’s senior management began to focus on the dispute.

    Management have had months to talk, but they’ve obviously been too busy with other things (declaring hundreds of redundancies etc.)

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