Ei-iE

UK: Keele University greylisting suspended as union strikes deal

published 16 June 2008 updated 16 June 2008

The University and College Union (UCU) announced on 12 June that it has reached an interim agreement with Keele University over the current dispute involving the School of Economic and Management Studies (SEMS) and the Centre for Health Planning and Management (CHPM).

As a result, both the current action short of a strike and the threat to 'greylist' Keele University have been suspended.

The Keele branch of UCU and the national union are clear that the interim settlement reached should enable the university to avoid compulsory redundancies. However, if the management does not conduct the negotiations in the spirit which has been agreed, greylisting and the action short of a strike can be reinstated.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'We are delighted to have reached a negotiated agreement with Keele University. This agreement has been reached in no small part thanks to the quite incredible support from UCU members in both further and higher education and academics both nationally and internationally.

'Nobody involved with the university wanted to see greylisting and we are delighted that it has not come to this. We now hope that fruitful negotiations can be conducted and there will be no need to reinstate either greylisting or the action short of a strike.

'The support of the union and the wider academic community should serve as a warning to other institutions that UCU will not allow institutions to treat its staff unfairly or disregard its own standards and procedures.'

UCU and management have agreed the following:

  • A process will be put in place to determine the details of academic programmes within the proposed school.
  • The university will negotiate with UCU, terms for voluntary severance to offer to staff from the areas affected.
  • The offer of voluntary severance will remain open until 31 January 2009.
  • The university agrees not to deduct any pay in respect of the industrial action short of a strike.
  • UCU accepts that these measures are intended to minimise and avoid the need to consider compulsory redundancies. UCU reserves its right to oppose any compulsory redundancies.

In light of this, UCU undertakes to:

  • Suspend action on the proposed 'greylisting' of the university and to notify all of contacts of this action with immediate effect.
  • Suspend the current industrial action short of a strike with immediate effect.
  • Write formally to the Visitor to seek that the Visitor stays determination of the Petition until 31 January 2009 and permits the university to take action immediately to implement the matters in this agreement.

Greylisting is the ultimate sanction available to UCU members and is only ever used where a university or college refuses to engage in meaningful negotiations with a branch or local association. Thanks to last-minute negotiations between the union and Keele University, no institution has ever been greylisted in UCU's two-year history.

Lecturers in SEMS and CHPM took strike action on Thursday 21 February and began a boycott of assessment on 6 May. On 22 February all UCU members at Keele began action short of a strike, designed to cause the maximum impact on the university without disrupting the education of students. It included:

  • non-cooperation with the institutional audit
  • non-cooperation with the development of new degree programmes for the new Business School
  • non-participation in Learning and Teaching committees and the design and approval of a new university-wide degree structure due to come into effect in September 2009
  • non-participation in visit days and open days
  • non-compliance with the collection of data for full economic costing.

For more information, please visit the UCU's website.