Message from the Vice-Chancellor: Industrial action related to pensions and pay

Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands, has written to all staff about the prospect of another period of industrial action, due to commence on Thursday 20 February:

Dear colleague,

It is with regret that I write to you about the prospect of another period of industrial action called by the University and College Union (UCU) and due to commence on 20 February for 14 days, over four weeks.

For some students due to graduate this summer, this will be the fourth period of industrial action they will have experienced during their time at Leeds, whilst many others have been largely unaffected by strikes or action short of a strike. This is at best inequitable.

Whilst I respect peoples’ right to take industrial action, I am disappointed that the UCU has chosen to do so at this particular point in time, just when its national officers, employer representatives and USS itself have reported that real progress is being made in national talks. It is surely in the interests of all staff and students for our national leaders to put all their energies into finding solutions to this dispute as quickly as possible.

The issues underlying the disputes – pensions, and pay and conditions – are clearly complex with no easy answers and, of course, I understand that many colleagues have strongly held and often divergent views on how to achieve progress. However, it is against this background that the University remains committed to a fair and sustainable way forward.

All parties have been engaged in a number of constructive national meetings throughout January. The result is a series of commitments relating to pay, equality, wellbeing and casualisation, which provide a basis for progress, both locally and nationally. On pensions, the tripartite discussions between UUK, UCU and USS are continuing to address the recommendations of the Joint Expert Panel (JEP2) report on the USS, with a particular focus on the valuation process, improved governance and the principle of mutuality. The primary responsibility of all concerned is to build on this whilst giving priority to the interests of students.

However, if there is strike action, this will undoubtedly be a very difficult time for staff – whether participating in industrial action or not – and for students at a critical point in the academic year. I do, of course, appreciate that all colleagues will continue to do their very best to support students and to ensure that they receive the high quality education they expect and deserve, and I remain hugely grateful for this.

At a personal level, I will, of course, continue to do everything I can to support progress in the national discussions.

Best wishes,

Alan Langlands