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Union threatens industrial action over changes to terms and conditions

20 March 2017 | last updated: 24 March 2017

Staff at the University of Leeds are threatening to ballot for industrial action over changes to terms and conditions as part of proposed new university statutes

The university's statutes set out dismissal procedures which already contain many grounds such as redundancy, capability, ill health and conduct, but management want to introduce an additional catch-all dismissal clause, "Some Other Substantial Reason" (SOSR), which management say could include conflict of interest, breakdown in trust and confidence, third party pressure, mistake or ignorance of law.

The union argues that these grounds contain serious threats to academic freedom and to freedom of speech. Dismissing staff on grounds of making mistakes could increase a culture of blame and lack of reporting. Allowing third party pressure or workplace disagreement as a grounds for dismissal threatens the principled disagreement which is the essence of academic freedom. This would risk the heart of what a university should be - a community of ideas debated openly without outside interference.

UCU branch president, Tim Goodall, said: 'Senior management has argued that 'Some Other Substantial Reason' is grounds for dismissal in employment law, but they have also exempted the vice-chancellor, deans and the HR director from statute, which seem hypocritical.  The grounds for dismissal contained in the statutes are a threat to academic freedom at the university as we are calling for them to be dropped.'

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