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Staff force emergency meeting at University of Warwick in jobs row

20 March 2017

Staff at the University of Warwick have forced an emergency meeting of academics over concerns that the university is seeking to rip up the rule book surrounding academic freedom and employment rights.

UCU will today trigger an extraordinary meeting of the university assembly by presenting vice-chancellor Stuart Croft with a formal motion for the assembly to vote on and the requisite number of supporting signatures. It is rare for staff at the University of Warwick to take this exceptional step. They have requisitioned an assembly in this way just a handful of times in more than a decade.   

The university wants to remove protections academic staff have against redundancy in what it says is merely a tidying-up exercise. It argues that the current procedures, as laid down in the university's employment statute, are unnecessarily drawn out, unclear and do not cover all staff.

UCU says the changes are little more than a "race to the bottom" in terms of rights at work and that if the university really wanted to equalise staff contracts it should offer everyone better protections, not devise ways to make sacking academics easier.

Under the new rules, academic redundancy decisions will be made by heads of department and senior management, rather than by council. Appeals will be heard by two members of management, rather than an experienced, independent lawyer. The only member of staff exempt from the new rules would be vice-chancellor Croft.

The union said it fears the university is trying to rush the changes through at a university council meeting on Wednesday 17 May. Council is the main decision-making body at the University of Warwick although the assembly is able to pass motions and make recommendations directly to it. More details on Wariwick UCU's concerns can be found on its website and a Q&A.

Warwick UCU president, Justine Mercer said: 'This is a clear attempt by the university to engage in a race to the bottom when it comes to employees' rights and academic freedom. They have consistently downplayed the significance of what they are proposing and the strength of our opposition. We have been left with no alternative but to force the vice-chancellor to schedule a meeting of all academic staff. The university says the reform is a simple tidying-up exercise; we want to know why it fears proper accountability and staff security. And why the vice-chancellor would be the only staff member immune from the changes.'

Last updated: 29 March 2017