Emergency meeting has been called over jobs row at Warwick Uni

Staff could be dismissed for publishing in the wrong journals or offering controversial opinions

Staff members at the University of Warwick forced an emergency meeting on Monday due to concerns over academic freedom and employment rights.

On Monday, The University and College Union (UCU) initiated an unusual move of presenting the Vice-Chancellor, Stuart Croft, with a formal motion. This has since triggered a meeting of the university assembly.

The UCU’s concerns are over proposed reforms to academic redundancy decisions. The Union claim Warwick University are intending to remove protections for academic staff against redundancy. The Vice-Chancellor would be the only staff member to be immune from the changes.

The UCU state that the new rules will “make sacking academics easier”, with the Warwick UCU president, Justine Mercer, commenting that “this is a clear attempt by the university to engage in a race to the bottom when it comes to employees’ rights and academic freedom.” Mercer adds that this has left the Union “with no alternative but to force the vice-chancellor to schedule a meeting of all academic staff”.

Previously, academic redundancy decisions were made by council, however the proposed changes will be instead be made by heads of department and senior management. Similarly, appeals will no longer be heard by an experienced, independent lawyer – but two members of management.

The Union claims that they changes will mean that staff can be dismissed on a range of new grounds, some of which are incredibly broad ranging. The following are examples of grounds for dismissal: conduct that ‘could’ damage the university’s reputation, publishing in the wrong journals, offering controversial opinions, or because management’s had enough of their course.

A spokesman from Warwick University has responded by saying:  “Some of the existing statutes and ordinances no longer reflect our current organisational structures and processes; there is need to ensure clarity on delegated authorities within our systems, and both the university and our trades unions recognise the need for our statutory provisions to be brought in line with modern employment law obligations and practices.

“We have been in consultation with all four recognised trades unions. The university has already enhanced the statutory protection over that period of consultation, that the consultation process is still ongoing. Our governing instruments will continue to enshrine the university’s commitment to academic freedom and to the principles of justice and fairness.”

The UCU has launched a petition entitled ‘Save Our Statue’, one of many attempts to help prevent the new rulings from being put into place.