Open Letter to the Principal

On the 30th May 2011, an open letter was sent to the Principal (Louise Richardson) by the three staff unions (UCU, Unite, and Unison) and the Students’ Association calling for greater transparency and involvement for staff and students in the decisions to restructure various parts of the University:

Monday 30th May 2011.

Dear Principal,

We are taking the unusual step of writing a joint open letter to you about the restructuring that is happening in various parts of the University. We are doing this because of the damaging effects upon hundreds of people, including some of our lowest paid and most vulnerable members of staff.

We are under no illusions regarding the seriousness of the current economic situation. However, as we are sure you will agree, our staff are the most important asset of the University. Their loyalty and dedication are key to our success. Equally the fair treatment of all staff is at the root of this loyalty. It creates a sense of community which we undermine at our peril.

We feel that the current restructuring is having precisely such a corrosive effect, leading to a sense of uncertainty, unfairness, and fear. There are three aspects of the process which particularly concern the staff and students we represent:

  • First, we do not accept that the case for restructuring has been made convincingly or that staff and students have been properly involved in the decision-making processes. We all have an interest in the success of the University and, if there are issues to be addressed, we believe that the whole community should have the opportunity to participate fully in discussions as to how we move forward. The top-down nature of the current process is counter-productive both in the sense that it fails to take advantage of staff knowledge and that it communicates a sense that staff are distrusted.
  • Second, the consequence of this top-down process has been an absence of clear information about what is happening. Snippets have come out in dribs and drabs. Sometimes contradictory information has come from different sources. In certain cases people have heard informally about changes that would, if implemented, have profound effects upon them. This breakdown of communication has increased anxiety throughout the University community, creating a climate where rumour thrives and where people don’t know quite what to believe.
  • Third, at the root of these anxieties is the fear that terms and conditions for many staff will be adversely affected by the changes even if they do not actually lose their jobs. For some this may mean being transferred to jobs on lower grades. For others, the fear is that the working year or working week will be reduced. Again, we stress that these changes would impact on some of the lowest paid workers in the University, endangering their livelihoods.

We hope that you, like us, believe that we should be supporting rather than undermining our most vulnerable staff. Accordingly, we call upon you to ensure that, as a matter of urgency, changes are made to the current restructuring process. These changes must ensure that the process is fully open and transparent and that all staff and students are given the opportunity to have input to decision-making. We also call on you to give a commitment that, whatever changes are made, they will not be to the detriment of the terms, conditions and income of staff currently in post.

We look forward to hearing your response.

Faithfully yours,

Ian Grieve (Unite),
Chris Hooley (UCU),
Hazel Larg (Unison),
Siena Parker (Students’ Association),
on behalf of the Joint Union Committee.


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