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Open letter to the VC of the University of York

October 30, 2014

The following letter was sent today to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, who yesterday threatened to stop paying their staff if they participated in legitimate industrial action. If you agree with the sentiment of the letter, please do sign the petition below the letter text.
30 October 2014

Dear Professor Lamberts,

I recently learned that the University of York intends to withhold 100% of pay from members of the University and College Union (UCU) who participate in ‘Action Short of a Strike.’ As you know, this industrial action has been called in response to the proposed ‘reforms’ to the Universities Superannuation Scheme – proposals that, in their present form, constitute the most serious threat to academics’ pay and conditions in at least a generation, and which will leave thousands of academics many tens of thousands of pounds worse off in their retirement. Your threat to dock 100% pay on a continuous basis – which amounts to nothing less than old-fashioned union-busting – might be expected of a nineteenth century mill owner, but it has absolutely no place in a university system which, quite rightly, values collegiality.

The decision to define any work that unionised academics at York continue to do (including the preparation and delivery of lectures, the planning and running of seminar classes, the hosting of visiting speakers, research, the writing of journal articles, conference papers and books, the supervision of undergraduate, MA and PhD students, the provision of pastoral care, the writing of references and letters of recommendation, the preparation and evaluation of grant proposals, committee work, and the enthusiastic participation in a range of undergraduate admissions and recruitment activities, including open days) as merely “voluntary” is utterly shameful. The decision to calculate deductions in pay on a 1/260th basis – thereby ignoring the substantial amount of work that, as you know perfectly well, is undertaken by academics on weekends – only adds insult to injury.

I note the University of York claims to apply “the best ethical standards” in all of its activities, while your latest strategic plan lauds York’s “informality”, “friendliness” and “flat management structure” – all part of a distinctive “ethos”, we are told, that is designed to help “promote a sense of belonging and worth” among your employees (an approach, furthermore, that you claim will be “protect[ed] and develop[ed]” because “it contributes to the dynamic intellectual environment on which our future success depends”). I am very keen to know how your proposed actions in response to the UCU’s action short of a strike tally with these values, and eagerly await your response.

With very best wishes,
Dr Simon Hall
Senior Lecturer in American History School of History
University of Leeds

P.S. I should like to make it clear that the views expressed in this letter are mine, and do not represent an official stance taken by my department or institution.


The form will show you the total number of respondents when you complete it. We’ve had so many responses, that we are uploading the petition responses manually (in part, to allow us to monitor for inappropriate comments). We’re placing them online in this posting.  (last updated 10am, Friday 21 November – 773 signatures) This petition is now closed.


25 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr Tony Sullivan permalink
    October 30, 2014 5:27 PM

    This threat if carried out is a disgraceful and draconian attack on all academics. Your fight is ours. In solidarity

  2. October 30, 2014 7:14 PM

    Adding my signature.

  3. October 31, 2014 9:19 AM

    Dr Elton Barker,

    Adding my signature

  4. October 31, 2014 9:20 AM

    Thanks Elton – please do so on the form above, in addition to your visible support here. The results will not show immediately on this page, but we’ll update them every few hours.

  5. Laura Miles permalink
    October 31, 2014 10:42 AM

    This is an issue for the whole union and demands a clear and effective response.

  6. aidan collins permalink
    November 1, 2014 1:54 AM

    as a current york MA student this is sickening

  7. Anonymous permalink
    November 1, 2014 10:08 AM

    As an employee of Trinity Saint David where we too have suffered due to similar management positions I am saddened that you seem to think so little of workers’ rights.

  8. November 1, 2014 9:45 PM

    If universities behave badly who is going to behave well?

  9. Truth permalink
    November 2, 2014 12:24 PM

    I think they should take away your pay if you want to put students at an inconvenience, while they pay the big bucks and you demand more! Infact, any professor that goes on strike in my world should be sacked on the spot.

  10. November 2, 2014 12:28 PM

    Hi ‘Truth’. You might not have read up on this. We’re not asking for more. We’re asking them not to take away our money from our pension from work we’ve already done over years and decades. Not a penny of public money is involved. We’re not paid ‘big bucks’; we’re sone of the worst paid academics in the English speaking world who have recently seen a 15% pay cut. We don’t want more, we want what is already ours. You can side with the fat cats if you want, but do some basic homework please. Because you clearly don’t yet understand the ‘truth’. Thanks.

  11. An academic permalink
    November 2, 2014 12:47 PM

    Well, ‘truth’ obviously doesn’t know the truth. It’s clear that it’s more important to him/her to shout out of ignorance to make an anti-Union stance rather than discover what this issue is about. And clearly he/she is an American, from his/her choice of vocabulary. It would be useful if the blog owners could check the IP address from that comment, if possible. If that’s just a union hater in the US this would prove we’re having a significant impact beyond these shores. In which case, thanks for the heads up Truth! You have nothing useful to add from speaking from a position of clear ignorance on the issue, but you do perhaps help show how well this blog is working. Own goal.

  12. November 2, 2014 1:01 PM

    The IP address from ‘The Truth’ actually locates in London, near Westminster.

  13. Kathleen O'Neill permalink
    November 3, 2014 12:02 PM

    This is what happens when you turn education into a commodity, float it on the open market and turn teachers into sales people.

  14. November 3, 2014 1:53 PM

    Reblogged this on March the Fury and commented:
    Shocking to see the university I graduated from engaging in old-school union busting, threatening staff of 100% pay cuts for engaging in action short of a strike. Let’s hope they reverse this disgraceful position.
    Please sign and share the statement below.

  15. Academic permalink
    November 6, 2014 1:30 PM

    Another example of a VC chanting chapter book and verse about their right to punish inconsiderate teaching and lecturing staff without having the remotest idea about the extent and effort academics go to in pursuit of quality education for all students

  16. Bradford UCUite permalink
    November 6, 2014 8:39 PM

    The University of Bradford is threatening the same as York – 100% deduction for participation in action short of a strike : – can we have some solidarity too 🙂

  17. November 6, 2014 9:15 PM

    We do send our solidarity to Bradford, and to Ulster, Salford, UEA and all other colleagues threatened by 100% dock. We jumped on York who came up first, and our message is resonating across the sector, including in your institutions. We’re in contact with branch officers.

  18. Grow a pair and suck it up. permalink
    November 11, 2014 1:00 PM

    The reason why York doesn’t want you to strike is because it’s unfair on students. The same reason hard working people in the police force are not allowed to strike. They’ve had HUGE (yes bigger than you) pension and salary cutbacks, yet they don’t have your ‘privilege’ to strike.

    Since this has caused marking boycotts in the past, they’ve decided to say no to your little hissy fit this time.

    The chances of us having any sort of adult debate with academics is always going to be hard though, after all, you’ve never really entered the real world, just studied it.

    Look how angry one comment can make you. Grown ‘academic’ adults saying ‘well you don’t know the truth do you truth’ – You might as well stick a ‘naaah naaah naaah’ on the end of it.

    Grow a pair and grow up while you’re at it.

  19. November 11, 2014 8:08 PM

    We don’t follow your logic here – you argue that the reason York doesn’t want us to strike (we’re not striking, by the way, at least not yet) is the same reason as the police are not allowed to strike. That’s rather odd reasoning. No the police can’t strike. But we can’t compare a service such as the police and University staff. Even if you want to. Theirs is a public sector pension scheme, ours is a private scheme within the public-ish sector. Our scheme has no public money in it, it is all our money – we’re asking nothing of the public purse. Some of us are being asked to lose up to short of a quarter of a million pounds in retirement, of our own money, no rank and file police officer to our knowledge faced that dimension of loss, so we’re curious what losses you’re talking about. If you had to lose that amount of your own money, when there were dubious grounds for that being ‘necessary’, would you do so without protest? Perhaps you would. Perhaps you could afford to give up that kind of money overnight.

    Your statement about ‘the real world’ and academics suggests that you don’t go to University of have any experience of it. We can’t debate of fallacious premises.

    Is not the point of debate to access, consider and scrutinise the truth from different angles? We are unsure why you consider that measured response to be immature or ‘angry’.

    While you request adult debate, you use gendered abuse. You may wish to express yourself in that way, and we don’t censor it here, but we don’t accept it as an example of adult debate.

  20. One of those academic types permalink
    November 11, 2014 8:36 PM

    Thanks to Leeds UCU for posting the incoherent abusive rants that this blog attracts. It does support our cause if people can’t express themselves against our cause with clear reasoning.

    The police pension issue offers a useful point of comparison

    Police: Final Salary scheme closed, CRB scheme introduced
    Us: Final Salary scheme to close, CRB scheme to be introduced
    Result: The same

    Police: Accrual rate of 1/55th, revaluation of CPI + 1.25%
    Us: Accrual rate of 1/80th proposed, revaluation of CPI capped at 5%
    Result: Far, far better deal to our boys in blue

    Police: Normal pension age of 60
    Us: Normal pension age around 68
    Result: Better deal for police

    Police: Protection for those within 10 years of retirement
    Us: No such protection
    Result: Much better deal for the police

    So, do the police deserve a much better pension with tax-payers money than we do with our own money? Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. The point is that it’s impossible to argue they’re getting a worse deal. And maybe you really need to compare like with like.

    And perhaps do some homework before telling people to adapt genital formation.

  21. November 13, 2014 11:02 PM

    This is scandalous! However, it is a predictable outcome of the continuing corporatisation of UK universities. When this process started (supposedly making universities more like businesses) Japanese academics were really surprised. They said our universities were world class but our company management third rate. they wondered why we were trying to adapt them to a worse model.

  22. November 14, 2014 9:07 AM

    A sign of very, very poor senior management.


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