Open letter to the VC of the University of York
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.