Leicester hit with union boycott in jobs row

University and College Union ‘grey-lists’ institution, asking academics to refuse to have any dealings with it

May 4, 2021
University of Leicester
Source: iStock

The UK’s biggest higher education union has launched a boycott of the University of Leicester in a dispute about redundancies at the institution.

On 4 May, the University and College Union (UCU) announced it had “grey-listed” the institution, asking members, other trade unions, labour movement organisations and the international academic community to refuse to interact or partner with Leicester.

UCU has not hit an institution with its ultimate sanction since it grey-listed London Metropolitan University in 2016.  

The union has been in a dispute with Leicester over plans that would put 145 staff at risk, though that number has been lowered after some staff took voluntary redundancies or accepted “inferior contracts”, the union said.

UCU said poor financial management and bad governance had led to the redundancies and claimed that the university had refused to share data on finances with campus trade unions.

According to the union, the university’s 2019-20 financial statements show the institution is having to borrow money in order to remain financially viable, but its management has insisted that financial reasons are not behind the redundancies.

As part of the sanctions, UCU is asking the academic community not to apply for jobs advertised at Leicester, not to speak at or organise conferences there and not to accept positions as a visiting professor or write for any academic journal at Leicester.

Scholars are also asked to refuse to collaborate on new research projects with Leicester or accept a position as an external examiner at the institution.

The local branch began action short of a strike and a marking and assessment boycott on the same day. UCU said Leicester must “lift the threat of compulsory redundancies to end the dispute”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the union would “not stand back and allow the University of Leicester to be destroyed by dismal management. Nor will we allow staff and students to pay the price for catastrophic failures of governance.

“It is rare for UCU to call for a global academic boycott, and doing so reflects the seriousness of the situation. Leicester staff have the support of the whole union in their ongoing action; we all stand alongside them in this fight against brutal job cuts. The university needs to lift its threat of compulsory redundancies if it wants to end this dispute,” she said.

A University of Leicester spokesperson said that it “is regrettable that the UCU has decided to proceed with strike action and has called for a global boycott”.

“Our priority remains ensuring our current students can complete their assessments for this academic year, and that our finalists can graduate and take the next steps in their journey,” the university said. “We have asked UCU to meet us on several occasions, but so far they have declined. However, we will continue to try and engage with them.”


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Reader's comments (1)

UCU general secretary Jo Grady has a conflict of interest at Leicester that should be explained.