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Strike at University of Leeds over new sacking rules

20 June 2017

Staff at the University of Leeds will take strike action on Thursday to disrupt an open day in a row over plans to give managers new powers to sack staff.

UCU members will be on picket lines outside 17 entrances to the university from 8am, including the main entrance via the Parkinson Steps on Woodhouse Road. They will also be speaking to prospective students and their parents as they arrive for the open day.

The university wants to introduce a catch-all dismissal clause entitled "Some Other Substantial Reason". The union says the change is unnecessary and represents a threat to rigorous debate that is the very essence of what a university should be all about.

Staff can already be dismissed on issues such as conduct, capability and ill health and those dismissal procedures are written in to the university's rule book. UCU says there is absolutely no need to introduce a new dismissal that covers pretty much anything, and warned the move could be counterproductive.

The union says the clause could threaten academic freedom by allowing third party pressure from an unhappy research funder or a workplace disagreement to become a grounds for dismissal. UCU warns this would risk the heart of what a university should be - a community of ideas debated rigorously and openly without outside interference.

UCU regional official, Julie Kelley, said: 'Strike action is always a last resort. But staff at Leeds have made it clear they are prepared to fight a catch-all dismissal rule which gives too much power to the university. Staff are understandably wary about how some managers might use this new power.

'We are also concerned that the university wants to be able to sack people because of pressure from third parties. This could mean staff who produce research that is critical of major research funders or the government, could fear being sacked. There is still time for talks to try to find common ground on this and avoid Thursday's walk-out.'

In the recent ballot of UCU members, two-thirds (67%) of those who voted backed strike action.

Last updated: 20 June 2017