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London Metropolitan University amended boycott advice

Email to members, 3 May 2017

Dear colleague,

Academic boycott of London Metropolitan University 

Over the bank holiday weekend the union was threatened with an injunction and damages by London Metropolitan University (LMU) with regard to the academic boycott instigated by the higher education committee. In particular, LMU alleges that the boycott in effect encourages staff to break their contracts and constitutes a conspiracy in law to undermine their business. Academic boycott has been an effective weapon for UCU and our predecessor unions for many years and my priority in the face of this challenge is to ensure that this weapon remains available to UCU not just at LMU but everywhere. 

Having taken detailed and comprehensive legal advice I wish to advise you as follows: 

1. Previously issued advice to members about the academic boycott is withdrawn and is being reissued only to members who are not employed at LMU to include a statement to the effect that: 'For the avoidance of doubt, where any of the above activities forms part of your contractual duties or where you are otherwise unsure about this you should only refrain from doing them after your head of department (or line manager) has given you prior permission to do so. UCU is not asking or encouraging academics to act in breach of their contracts of employment. In the event of any doubt, before acting advice should be sought from the union or clarification sought from your line manager.'

2. UCU members employed by LMU itself must not participate in the academic boycott in order to protect their contractual position. 

Please note that the above advice will not ordinarily preclude members from supporting the boycott with regard to such things as refusing to act as an external examiner, choosing not to provide a visiting lecture at LMU, choosing a research partner and so on since these are generally matters of individual academic autonomy. Members in any doubt about their contractual position should seek the union's advice before acting. 

The union's revised request to members to support the boycott should now read as follows: 

Members are asked to support the academic boycott in any way that they can. This may include not doing the following:

  • applying for any advertised jobs
  • speaking at or organising academic or other conferences
  • giving lectures
  • accepting positions as visiting professors or researchers
  • writing for any academic journal which is edited at or produced by the institution in question
  • accepting new contracts as external examiners for taught courses
  • collaborating on new research projects.
     

For the avoidance of doubt, where any of the above or other related activities forms part of your contractual duties you should only refrain from doing them after your head of department (or line manager) has given you prior permission to do so. UCU is not asking or encouraging academics to act in breach of their contracts of employment. In the event of any doubt, before acting advice should be sought from the union or clarification sought from your line manager. 

If you have any queries please contact Matt Waddup at mwaddup@ucu.org.uk 

Best wishes

Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

Last updated: 5 May 2017