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UCU launches campaign against university anti-union dirty tricks

19 March 2018

Coventry University was warned today it could become a 'pariah institution' if it doesn't stop employing dirty tricks to wriggle out of giving staff proper pay and conditions.

UCU says Coventry is exploiting a legal loophole to deny its staff their rights and that it will call for an academic boycott of the university if bosses do not stop their underhand tactics.

The union said an academic boycott was its most serious act of censure and would see UCU members refuse to do things like attend conferences, apply for jobs, give lectures or act as external examiners for Coventry University.

The row centres on staff trying to get union recognition at one of the Coventry University's subsidiary companies (Coventry University Group). The company has set up a sham trade union - the Staff Consultative Group - and signed a recognition agreement with it. Through a loophole in trade union law, this means that UCU cannot now apply to represent the staff affected.

Staff at Coventry University Group are paid less than their colleagues at Coventry University and are employed on inferior terms and conditions. Coventry University Group is a wholly owned education subsidiary company of Coventry University. Its sole shareholder is Coventry University and the company's chief executive, John Dishman, is a pro-vice-chancellor of the university. 

Board meeting minutes from March 2016 obtained via a Freedom of Information request show that even then Coventry University Group was considering this legal manoeuvre to stop UCU from applying for statutory recognition.

A petition has been launched a calling on Coventry University Group to scrap the sham union and recognise UCU in accordance with staff wishes.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said, 'Universities are not covering themselves in glory at the moment but these dirty tricks by Coventry University represent a new low for the sector. Coventry is going to get a reputation as a pariah institution if it does not abandon this shameful approach to its staff.

'Coventry University and Coventry University Group must scrap the sham union and recognise UCU in accordance with staff wishes. Failure to do so could see UCU members stop applying for jobs, lecturing or collaborating on research projects at the university.'

Last updated: 20 March 2018