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An open letter to George Holmes

April 27, 2015

Dear George,

I’m writing as a former colleague of the Bolton University, where I worked in the 1990s when it was still the Bolton Institute of Higher Education. That was my first permanent job in HE, and I remember enjoying a collegial and supportive environment where my professional development was taken seriously and where my right to express my thoughts and opinions was respected. I understand that colleagues cannot enjoy the same environment in the Institution these days.

I am writing, therefore, to condemn Bolton University’s unprocedural, patently unfair and possibly unlawful sacking of two trade unionists. I am firmly of the belief that the principles of natural justice and due process should apply to all (including trade union activists), and that principled differences of view are the bases upon which a strong university is founded. I would like to helpfully and constructively point out, in case you are unaware, that dismissing trade unionists without process or just cause reflects very badly upon Bolton University’s wider public reputation.The discriminatory and sexist manner in which you have dismissed Jenny Markey, seemingly on the wholly irrelevant and immaterial grounds of her spousal relationship with Damien Markey is particularly objectionable. Such prehistoric, sexist action again reflects very badly upon a public institution of learning. Indeed, the reputation of the University has been brought into quite significant disrepute by a management that would believe that the processes used to terminate the employment of Damien and Jenny Markey were appropriate, valid and fair. To bring upon the Institute the ridicule of the Times Higher, who parodied the process you championed in their Poppletonian section, demonstrates the poor judgement of Bolton University leadership in causing eyes nationally to cast a disapproving look at you and those who endorsed those processes. (

If the matter of institutional reputation is truly important to you, then do consider your own processes, your own prejudices, and the path that you have opted to choose away from the collegial university environment. Value instead freedom of expression, academic freedom and the right to challenge received wisdom. Without these things, the institution under your leadership has no hope of regaining and sustaining a reputation as being a good place to work, and as a consequence a good place to study.

Mark Taylor-Batty
President, UCU at University of Leeds
With and on behalf of Leeds UCU committee

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