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Strike threat at University of Leicester

31 March 2021 | last updated: 12 April 2021

UCU members at the University of Leicester are being balloted from today on whether to take industrial action in defence of jobs.

University management have been threatening 145 staff with compulsory redundancy. Although that number is now slightly lower as a result of some taking 'voluntary' redundancy or accepting inferior contracts - a large number of livelihoods remain at risk.

Managers deny there are any financial reasons for planned redundancies - and refuse to share with campus trade unions data on finances. But the university's 2019/20 financial statements show the institution is having to borrow money in order to remain a going concern. The accounts also make clear that 'further savings and efficiencies' might be required.

In a consultative ballot, two-thirds (67%) of Leicester UCU members who voted indicated they are prepared to take industrial action including strike action to contest the executive's plans; almost four-fifths (79%) are prepared to take industrial action short of a strike, which could involve things like not doing unpaid overtime. The turnout in the ballot was comfortably above the legal threshold. Leicester UCU branch officers are confident this overwhelming support for industrial action will be replicated in the official ballot they have now triggered.

The students' union has offered strong support to UCU. In its full referendum held earlier in the month, 90% of those voting expressed no confidence in vice-chancellor Nishan Canagarajah and his executive board.

Besides possible mismanagement of the university's finances, Leicester UCU officers have other concerns about the redundancies. These include a potentially unlawful attack on academic freedom; executives' potentially unlawful refusal to share with unions crucial financial information; the tearing up by executives of university ordinances; the potentially unlawful targeting of trade union officers and activists; failures of university governance.

Further information is available on Leicester UCU's website. See in particular the redundancy briefing.

Dr Sarah Seaton, chair of Leicester UCU, said: 'Our leaders' behaviour over the past months and years betrays the poverty of their vision and their abdication of moral responsibility. Our university celebrates its centenary this year. But if we are to flourish in our second one hundred years as we did in our first, we need new leadership.'

Dr Deborah Toner, Leicester UCU campaigns officer, said: 'In nine years working at the University of Leicester, I've never seen staff morale so low. I am daily reminded of the absolute brilliance of our students, even in the hardest of circumstances. But they are being betrayed by the morally bankrupt decisions from the top, who are slashing and burning.'

Dr Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: 'Current events at University of Leicester are only the most egregious example of what we're seeing across the sector. Vice-chancellors and other leaders wholly lacking in imagination and basic competence, rabbits caught in the glare of metrics and the rhetoric of competition, beholden to financial markets. We need a new vision for higher education - and Leicester is perhaps one place that will emerge.'

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