Statute VII: 15 March 2017
Over the past three years, the University has been negotiating with UCU on the reform of Statute VII.
Over the past three years, the University has been negotiating with UCU on the reform of Statute VII, which sets out the procedures for academic and professional and managerial staff for the resolution of grievances, and for dismissal, removal from office, and redundancy.
The statute, which has not been updated since it was introduced more than a quarter of a century ago, needs to be modernised because it does not reflect changes in employment legislation, and falls a long way short of todays best practice with, in some instances, a lack of clarity about procedures and necessary time limits.
The Universitys approach to these negotiations has been shaped by its values and in particular by a determination to ensure academic freedom, which is of paramount importance.
Accordingly, the proposed changes to the statute foreground the following over-arching imperatives:
'The statute and any ordinances, regulations or procedures made under it shall be applied and construed in every case as having regard to guiding principles' which include the following:
'To ensure that members of staff shall have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or any privileges they may have at the University'.
'To apply the principles of justice and fairness.'
In other words, every time the statute and related ordinances or procedures are applied, protection of academic freedom is a fundamental principle that must be adhered to, and they must be applied justly and fairly.
We have made good progress in the negotiations and we have reached agreement with UCU on the vast majority of the detail, including the general statute which sets out these protections for academic freedom.
However, negotiations have reached an impasse on just three specific points, most notably the Universitys proposal to codify a procedure to be followed for the dismissal of a member of staff for contravention or some other substantial reason (SOSR). UCU is opposed to any mention of SOSR in the procedures.
Importantly, however, the University is not proposing to introduce new grounds for dismissal it already has power to dismiss for SOSR under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Consistent with our values of integrity and professionalism, all we are seeking to do is to be open, clear and transparent with staff about the procedures that would be followed.
UCU seems to be concerned that SOSR could be abused. Under the Universitys proposed approach, the existing checks and balances that prevent any abuse of procedures will remain in place: any potential dismissal case would have to be heard by a three person committee, including a member of the University Council (our governing body) and Senate (our academic governing body), and with a right of appeal. These checks and balances will apply to SOSR, as will the requirements to ensure that any dismissal is fair and to ensure that academic freedom is not infringed.
Negotiations have now broken down; UCU has declared a formal dispute and is considering balloting its members for industrial action. The University has offered to go to Acas, the independent, external dispute resolution service, but UCU has yet to respond to this offer.
The University must now reach a resolution. To go on as we are is simply not sustainable. We will therefore be making a recommendation to Council at the end of March based on the best that can be achieved through negotiation. Dismissal procedures are very rarely used, but we owe it to staff to let them know exactly what to expect when they are and for them to be applied in a fair and consistent way across the University.
The existing procedures can be found on the Secretariat websitePosted in: Statute VII