Staff at the University of Leicester have voted in favour of industrial action, including a potential boycott of marking and assessments, amid a “tsunami of dissent” over compulsory redundancies.
The University and College Union (UCU) said there was “emphatic support” from members in the ballot, with just under 70% of those who voted willing to take strike action and 84% backing action short of a strike.
Staff have been warned of up to 145 compulsory redundancies across five academic departments and three professional services departments, though that number is thought to have dipped slightly because of voluntary departures.
Academic staff have criticised the job cuts, the way they have been handled and, more generally, the direction the university has taken.
La settimana scorsa the Guardian reported that the university had threatened to strip an 81-year-old professor emeritus of his title over critical posts on social media. Peter Armstrong, who accepted the offer of emeritus status when he retired from the university in 2010, told followers on Twitter that management had threatened to rescind the honorary title because his comments breached the university’s “dignity at work” policy.
Armstrong, a leading scholar in the field of critical accounting, is one of multiple academics to have publicly criticised developments at Leicester.
The Leicester UCU chair, Dr Sarah Seaton, disse: “UCU members at the University of Leicester have made it overwhelmingly clear they are willing to take industrial action to protect jobs. Vice-chancellor Nishan Canagarajah has ignored a tsunami of dissent whilst trying to push through these cuts and staff believe the university has tried to intimidate them into submission.
“But we will fight to protect colleagues’ jobs and are willing to boycott all marking and assessments unless the university withdraws its threats of compulsory redundancy. We have a mandate for sustained industrial action, including strike action, if the university continues down this path.”
The UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, disse: “The University of Leicester is treating redundancies as the first option rather than a last resort, but our members will not let staff pay the price for poor decisions by management. The vice-chancellor must halt these compulsory redundancies to protect teaching and research at Leicester, and prevent any further damage to its reputation.”
A University of Leicester spokesperson said management was working to minimise the number of staff redundancies. “The university regrets that the UCU union has voted for strike action, but we remain committed to efforts to ensure there is continued dialogue,” they said. “It is important that we minimise the impact of any action on our staff and students. As we look to welcome our students back on to campus, it is now our priority that we support them in their end-of-year assessments and ensure our final year students can graduate.”