Recent actions from UCU: statement

In response to recent actions from UCU, the University of Leicester is today releasing the following statement:

Throughout our change process the University of Leicester has engaged with all our trade unions to have meaningful dialogue and consultation. We are disappointed by the national UCU’s Higher Education Committee (HEC) motion censuring the University of Leicester and calling for an academic boycott of the institution within the UK and the international academic community.

This became official UCU policy on 30 April when the national Higher Educational Committee voted unanimously in favour of the global boycott. Understandably, we are very disappointed by UCU’s decision to endorse the global boycott and the local decision to take continuous action short of strike.

To remain as a leading research-intensive University, we need to build on our position, which provides an exceptional educational experience for all our students. Every institution has the autonomy to decide which areas of research activity it will invest in and support, and the University has to manage its resources and its activity efficiently, effectively and in line with its strategic objectives.

There is a clear need and demand for investment in staff, students and our infrastructure and the only way we can meet this need is to invest more strategically. In order to do this, we need to make some difficult decisions and stop activity in some areas. The Executive Board, supported by the University’s Council, did not take the decision to start this process lightly and have limited the proposed changes to the minimum possible to meet our strategic objectives.

We have been actively engaging with all our trade unions as part of the change programme and the 90-day consultation window has now concluded. Each change lead has reflected on the feedback from staff, students and stakeholders to finalise their case for change. The cases have been amended as a result of the consultation, which reflect the level of engagement and professionalism of those involved. Now finalised, the cases for change have also been through our established governance processes and, where required, approved by Senate and Council.

At the beginning of this change programme, we announced that 145 posts were at risk of redundancy and that we were expecting a net reduction of approximately 60 posts (subject to the outcome of consultation and selection processes).

Throughout the consultation process, we have tried to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies through changes to the pool of people at risk, redeployment opportunities, and providing the option of taking voluntary severance. These steps have significantly reduced the number of compulsory redundancies to 26.

We would emphasise that the University supports the right of all staff to express their opinion, including any relating to the decisions made and actions taken as part of this programme of change. However, it does expect that this will be done in a respectful and appropriate manner and in accordance with our Dignity and Respect Policy and Social Media Guidelines.

We have raised concerns about a number of social media posts by Leicester UCU, and their representatives that were considered to be offensive, degrading or racially offensive. One image that was considered to be racially offensive was raised with the Regional UCU Office who agreed that it was not considered to be appropriate.

UCU have also released misinformation and inaccuracies regarding our financial position. They claim that the University has “failed to provide UCU branch negotiators with meaningful financial data” in relation to our change proposals. This is not correct. The change proposals concern issues of strategic focus and rather than the University’s financial position and therefore the financial information requested by Leicester UCU is not relevant to, or necessary for, consultation on our proposals. We have been transparent about University finances and published our annual statements before the deadline.

In addition, the national UCU press release makes groundless allegations of “catastrophic failures of governance” and that the University “will be destroyed by dismal management”. These smears against the University’s governing body and leadership are wholly unjustified and we call on UCU to publicly retract them.

The University’s senior management has met with UCU on a number of occasions in an attempt to resolve the dispute and it was made explicitly clear by the local branch that the resolution required was the withdrawal of all compulsory redundancies. The University is not in a position to do this but it has taken significant steps to reduce and limit the number of compulsory redundancies. UCU have also withdrawn from dispute meetings, declined invitations to attend further meetings and did not attend the April Joint Negotiating and Consultation Meeting, which included consultation on the change programme.

The University is willing to engage with UCU Leicester and this has been demonstrated by the steps we have taken.

In order to resolve this dispute, we need Leicester UCU to engage and meet with the University’s senior management – something they have currently failed to do.