Members of the University and College Union at the University of Leicester have voted to back industrial action over redundancy plans at the institution.
Leicester UCU announced that 69.7% of members who voted supported strike action and 84.1% supported action short of a strike, such as a boycott of marking and assessments. The vote exceeded the legal minimum threshold, achieving a turnout of 56.3%.
The ballot followed an announcement by the university that 145 staff faced compulsory redundancy: the university expects 60 jobs to go.
Leicester UCU members voted in favour of industrial action (67%), including strike action, in a consultative ballot held earlier this year. The union passed a motion of no confidence in the vice-chancellor and executive board in January.
The redundancies could affect academics in the schools of mathematics and actuarial science, business and informatics, and those in the departments of neuroscience, psychology and behaviour and English. The risk of redundancy also applies to staff in the David Wilson Library, the Business Change team, and the Leicester Learning Institute, which provides central support with curriculum and assessment design.
As we look to welcome our students back onto campus, it is now our priority that we support them in their end-of-year assessments and ensure our final-year students can graduate
– University of Leicester spokesperson
Leicester University “regrets” the strike vote, but would maintain “efforts to ensure there is continued dialogue”, a spokesperson said.
The statement continued: “It is important that we minimise the impact of any action on our staff and students. As we look to welcome our students back onto campus, it is now our priority that we support them in their end-of-year assessments and ensure our final-year students can graduate.
“We will continue to work with staff to minimise the number of staff redundancies through our consultation process.”
Leicester UCU chair Dr Sarah Seaton said the university vice-chancellor, Prof Nishan Canagarajah, had “ignored a tsunami of dissent whilst trying to push through these cuts, and staff believe the university has tried to intimidate them into submission”.
The union has “a mandate for sustained industrial action, including strike action, if the university continues down this path”, Dr Seaton added,
Leicester UCU accused university managers of “bullying tactics” during the ballot “to intimidate and silence staff”.
The Guardian reported that the university had removed the professor emeritus title from an 81-year-old professor who posted comments on social media criticising the institution.
The university did not address the allegation specifically, but told the Guardian in a statement: “All members of the university community are expected to behave with respect and courtesy at all times, and adhere to the values and behaviours outlined in our dignity and respect policy.
“We are firmly committed to creating an inclusive learning, working and research environment characterised by respect and dignity, and free from harassment, bullying, abuse and discrimination. We take any reports of unacceptable behaviours seriously and will investigate any concerns raised, taking action where necessary.”