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Published: 15th August, 2018

Following from the VC’s illuminating message to all staff yesterday, we thought it might be an opportune moment to give you an update on our negotiations with ULT on the threat of compulsory redundancies.

Over the last few months the dialogue between UCU and ULT has been constructive, useful, some progress has been made, and some concessions have been won. However, the Leicester UCU committee does not believe that this has been sufficient and the prospect of compulsory redundancies remains unacceptable.

We address in turn the four key areas in which some degree of progress is in evidence:

  • Enhanced Voluntary Severance Scheme

We have welcomed this enhancement, but argued that it remains less generous than other schemes in operation at British Universities. We have offered to supply details of these to ULT.

Alongside VSS we asked for consideration of an enhanced early retirement scheme and continue to await a response.

  • Retraining and Redeployment

We have acknowledged and supported where redeployment has been successfully implemented and encouraged this to continue. However we see this as an opportunity to put in place a radically new procedure which allows the University to undertake planned change and bring experienced and well trained staff with them in the process. It would allow the University to build on existing areas of strength and exploit new ventures with qualified and motivated staff aligned to the strategic direction of the University.

We therefore believe that a retraining budget would need to be for a long-term commitment together with an agreed and secure position at the end. We have offered to provide information of similar schemes if needed.

  • Review of Business Cases Under Consideration

We are yet to be at all convinced by the assertion that compulsory redundancies can be averted under ULT’s present course of action. For one thing, this is based on the assumption that staff can be persuaded to take voluntary redundancy. We are, in particular, concerned about the prospect of even more compulsory redundancies in the Corporate Services departments (areas of the University in which we have a significant number of UCU members) and are watching these developments carefully. We  do not yet have the detail to suggest that an alternative approach to these departments will avoid the presentation of redundancy business cases.

The basis of our dispute therefore remains unchanged. Compulsory redundancies, even if subject to a reduction in relation the original projections (and we have yet to see clear evidence to support this), remain unacceptable – Leicester UCU members have made it clear that the ‘Case for Change’ is not sufficient justification.

A couple of the business cases have now been deemed ‘paused’. However we believe it is better that such cases should simply be withdrawn. Whilst we continue to press for a full halt to these processes, we have welcomed the extension of the 90 day consultation in those cases where ULT has been persuaded of the necessity to do so.

  • Management of Change

We welcome an alternative approach to enacting institutional change. We have made it clear that we require further information on how this may work and that we are of course prepared, along with the other unions, to help define this process.

We have stated that we see it as positive that this approach will begin with forthcoming changes in the Corporate Service departments and stressed that we hope that the persistent rumours we have heard that business cases are being prepared in spite of this new approach are unfounded.

In summary not enough progress has been made to avert potential strike action, and our current ballot will proceed according to its timetable. However, with a small amount of further constructive engagement between UCU and the University there is still an opportunity to reach a resolution. Our red line remains the threat of compulsory redundancies – if this is removed and we are left with a new way to manage change, a new fund for retraining staff and a recognition that an enhanced voluntary scheme is appropriate then it is possible that the relationship between ULT and the staff that make up the University of Leicester could emerge from this dispute on a better footing than when we entered it.