KEELE BOYCOTT! – unless 38 academic sackings are withdrawn

UCU members took strike action alongside members of the PCS civil service union and the National Union of Teachers on April 24
UCU members took strike action alongside members of the PCS civil service union and the National Union of Teachers on April 24

Keele University has one week to avoid the ignominy of becoming the first university to receive an academic boycott from the University and College union (UCU), the union warned yesterday.

The UCU said that unless the university halts its attempts to make 38 academic staff compulsorily redundant and halts the deduction of money from the salaries of staff taking part in ongoing lawful industrial action, it will ‘greylist’ the institution.

‘Greylisting’ is the ultimate sanction available to UCU members and is only ever used where a university or college refuses to engage in meaningful negotiations with a branch or local association.

No institution has ever been greylisted in UCU’s two-year history.

The union has specifically asked the university to:

• engage in meaningful negotiations with the branch and regional officials;

• remove the threat of pay deductions relating to the ongoing industrial action;

• commence the engagement of academic managers with teaching groups in discussions about future teaching programmes;

• agree an acceptable process for voluntary severance – including an extension to the time period of the current scheme.

Greylisting Keele would specifically mean a voluntary boycott of academic and other university activities where appropriate.

The union made clear yesterday that it does not want to have to greylist Keele, but warned that if it does it will then be asking colleagues in the union, other trade unions, labour movement organisations and the international academic community to support its members at Keele in any way possible.

The dispute between the union and Keele stretches back to December last year, when the UCU accused the university of ignoring normal procedures to rush through plans, which have left more than half (38) of the 67 academic staff in the world-renowned School of Economic and Management Studies (SEMS) and the Centre for Health Planning and Management (CHPM), facing redundancy.

The proposed redundancies were agreed after Keele University Council established an unprecedented ‘redundancy committee’, which bypassed normal decision-making processes.

Following and overwhelming vote, lecturers in SEMS took strike action on Thursday February 21 and the following day all UCU members at Keele began the action short of a strike, which is still ongoing.

The action short of a strike is designed to cause the maximum impact on the university without disrupting the education of students. It includes:

• non-cooperation with the institutional audit;

• non-cooperation with the development of new degree programmes for the new Business School;

• non-participation in Learning and Teaching committees and the design and approval of a new university-wide degree structure, due to come into effect in September 2009;

• non-participation in visit days and open days;

• non-compliance with the collection of data for full economic costing.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The University’s actions have already been condemned nationally and internationally.

‘Keele UCU members have the full support of the national union in their continuing action and can rest assured that we will be fighting these nonsensical redundancy plans with them all the way.’