Leeds University staff had a one-day strike over the university’s upcoming dismissal policy changes. The UCU and the university had reached “stalemate” following negotiations, which is what prompted the strike.

The Strike

University and College Union (UCU) members held a “one-day” walkout to protest against Leeds University’s upcoming dismissal policy changes. The strike took place at Woodhouse Road. The strike took place after negotiations between the institution and the union reached “stalemate.”

The union claimed that the university is planning to change its dismissal policy to “give managers new powers to sack staff.” UCU is claiming that the institution is attempting to “introduce a catch-all dismissal clause entitled ‘Some Other Substantial Reason.'” They argued that this unnecessary change threatens academic freedom, and could be grounds for abuse by employers in the future.

A regional official at the union, Julie Kelley, described the policy change as: ‘We can’t tell you when but we might use it at some point in the future.’ That’s really worrying. Certainly our members see it as an attack on their academic freedom.”

“The devil is always in the detail,” she said.

“What we want to do is persuade the university to drop some of the detrimental changes they are wanting to bring into the employment statute, which will have a direct impact on terms and conditions of employment.

“We are very worried, particularly in light of the Higher Education Bill and Brexit. It’s an uncertain time for universities and staff. We are concerned that although the university has never dismissed anyone on ‘some other substantial reason’ grounds, by putting it into policy, it might eventually be used to get rid of people.”

Additional Comments On the Issue

Kelley explained that this new policy could allow a “third party pressure from an unhappy research funder or a workplace disagreement to become grounds for dismissal.”

“Staff are understandably wary about how some managers might use this new power,” she continued.

The university said that it was disappointed that no resolution was reached during negotiations and that industrial actions were “genuinely unnecessary.”

“We were genuinely disappointed with the decision to take industrial action, but impact was minimal and the open day was a success – we welcomed more than 5,000 visitors to campus to learn more about the university.” it said.

It also claimed: “The university is not introducing any new grounds for dismissal, it is simply modernizing the procedures it would follow, in the interests of openness and transparency,” it said.

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