Pro-Vice Chancellor Stephen Scott responds to UCU claims

The Pro-Vice Chancellor for Staff, Stephen Scott, has responded to the UCU's claim that "1,000 jobs are under threat" at Leeds in a letter to the UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt.

Dear Sally

Thank you for your letter of 16th February to the Vice-Chancellor. Michael has asked me to follow this up with you with particular reference to the claim that 'over a thousand jobs are under threat at Leeds'.

Whilst accepting that through our section 188 letters over the last seven months, we have notified UCU and our other recognised trades unions of the potential end of approximately 1000 contracts, the issues we have with the way this has been represented are:

  1. That the phrase 'under threat' is misleading - and likely to cause unnecessary concern at the present time in particular
  2. That the statement does not acknowledge the considerable success we have in re-engaging or redeploying staff who appear on the section 188 reports
  3. The implication that this arises because of impending restructuring driven by financial pressures at Leeds
  4. That the situation at Leeds now is notably different from that at Leeds previously or from the situation at other research-intensive universities

Although we have a number of reviews underway at Leeds, these are really not related to the '1000'. The section 188 letters over the period concerned have only included 17 posts that might have become at risk through reviews (and 14 of those have now been resolved). The overwhelming majority (948 of the 963 notifications to the end of January 2011) actually related to the potential end of fixed term contracts. Leeds is one of the largest institutions in UK HE and as a research-intensive university naturally has a relatively large number of postdoctoral and associated staff supported on fixed funding. There is a natural endpoint to the funding. As you are aware this leads to a requirement to notify the trades unions of a potential end of contract for staff fully supported from such funds. Leeds is not unique in this and the extent of this activity has not changed significantly in the recent period.

The roles notified through the section 188 letters include students employed to help on open days or other local events, students who undertook internships in their academic schools as part of their studies, retiring members of academic staff who have been re-engaged for fixed period by mutual agreement and many other examples of short term employment which would naturally come to the end at the close of the academic year - the ending of which does not seem to us to justify the phrase 'jobs under threat'.

Finally, at no point were there 1000 jobs unresolved and at no point was it true that 1000 jobs might go. For the 117 posts originally due to end in January 2011, some 94 people (80%) have been successfully re-engaged at the University. Of the 948 over the whole 6 month period, over 45% have already been re-engaged even though some were only notified in the last two weeks.

I hope the above context helps explain why we felt it necessary to raise this issue with you and why we think that there is a very different overall picture from, what appeared to us, as a misrepresentation of the situation at Leeds. My hope would be that we might all work together on behalf of our staff to address major challenges addressing the sector as a whole without raising unnecessary levels of anxiety.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Scott

Download Professor Scott's letter

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