richard on Sun, 4 Feb 2007 19:58:59 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Stop this MAD sacking

Press briefing from University of Westminster University and College Union

Local Harrow rep - Peter McLoughlin ? 020 7 911 5000 x 4150
Negotiating Secretary ? Jill Jones ? 020 7911 5180 (w) ; 020 7485 5561 (h)
Chair: Chris Ellins ? 020 7 911 5000 x 2510

Date: February 2nd 2007

Stop this MAD sacking

Lecturers at the University of Westminster  are soon to be balloted  
for industrial action over an imminent ?redundancy? in the School of  
Media, Art and Design (MAD) of Dr Richard Barbrook.

The union chair, Chris Ellins, said: ?This is a dispute that should  
never have happened. There is no way that this is a genuine  
redundancy. This person?s subject areas can be used across the  
university on a wide range of courses. Why has the HR director barred  
him from teaching where work exists??

The union branch representative at Harrow where this school is based ?  
Peter McLoughlin ? added:- ?This is yet another example of why the  
recent staff survey showed very low confidence in the leadership of  
the university. They are allowing this to proceed  but without regard  
for proper processes or rationale.?

Management has so far refused the option in the disputes procedure of  
using ACAS to resolve matters, leaving us little choice but to take  

If management gets away with dismissing Richard ? no-one?s job would  
be safe in our view. This is not a genuine redundancy, but a sacking -  
possibly on the grounds, we believe, of personal animosity.

?	Richard was targeted for redundancy without any agreement with UCU  
on a pool, or on criteria for selection of redundancy, as is required  
to happen. It followed the closure of the MA in Hypermedia studies,  
for which Richard was acting Course Leader. He was not employed, in  
common with almost all staff, as a Course Leader for a particular  
course but as a Senior Lecturer  in MAD School. He had experience at  
the university in a wide range of humanities? teaching e.g. politics,  
business studies etc. in more than one department and can teach where  
his skills are needed.
?	Management has failed to follow the procedures required in the  
Memoranda and Articles of Governance of the university, which include  
an internal appeal to the VC or nominee, and agreement with UCU on the  
procedures for any appeal hearing to Governors.
?	Management, and especially Human Resources, have not actively sought  
to re-deploy Richard. It has been an exercise in tokenism  such as  
circulating his CV after the teaching year had begun.
?	In fact, it was UCU and Richard himself who identified substantial  
amounts of alternative work, encountering obstacles from managers at  
several points. We have been told that managers were `warned off?  
offering him work ? quite out of order when redundancy is possible.   
Work clearly offered by Subject Academic Leaders in Sociology and  
Politics was blocked by Human Resources at the last minute ? even  
though his name was already on the module handbook! Documents we have  
seen cannot be shown us officially because staff fear for their jobs.
?	This academic is widely known outside the university, contributes to  
the RAE and is in a future-focused field.
He is working with the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, has  published  
in multiple languages and his new book is  coming out in both England  
and Russia.
?	Management has asserted on many occasions that his competence is not  
in question, and he was able to show wide-ranging research work to the  
governors. The personal toll on him has been dreadful.
?	A research grant of £70,000 would not have been awarded to  
University of Westminster had they known of the intention to dismiss  
Richard. Academics in his field have written in support already.
?	An appeal to Governors was heard on Tuesday Jan 16th at which UCU  
presented a very strong case over 4½ hours, led by a UCU regional  
?	The attempt to make a member of staff redundant when there is  
clearly other work available exposes the university to serious risk of  
compensation at an Employment Tribunal and also to ridicule in the  
wider academic community. It would also have a damaging effect upon  
the University of Westminster?s reputation as an employer.

All this sets a dreadful potential precedent. In the past, whole  
departments have shut e.g. Civil Engineering and Podiatry, without  
compulsory redundancy.

The obvious but unpalatable implication of all this is that UCU would  
be forced to advise members to be very careful about being involved in  
any new venture in the university lest it is not successful. The risk  
of redundancy would clearly be in the background if it did not succeed.

UCU has for the past 2 years been going through all the existing  
channels to seek a resolution and finally took the issue to a formal  
Prevention of Disputes meeting in December 2005 and again on Jan 10th   
2007 seeking a resolution.  No response resulted from this recent  

All branches and the Co-ordinating Committee have passed motions  
saying that UCU would take action in the event of an attempt to make  
Richard redundant.

Regrettably it has now come to that point and we are preparing for a  
formal ballot of the membership for industrial action. Unless  
management see sense and/or the governors agree the appeal we will be  
balloting you for action.

UCU has worked very hard to avoid this situation but feel that in  
defence of all staff jobs we must now ballot  and UCU will be  
recommending a strong ?Yes? vote.

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