512 of 1,000 signatures

Open letter

Professor Sir Keith Burnett President and Vice Chancellor;

Dear President and Vice Chancellor,

I am relatively new to the University of Sheffield. I started employment in August 2017 in the Management School, joining a collegial department full of excellent researchers, passionate teachers, dedicated professional services staff, and engaged students. My research is on pensions and industrial relations, so naturally the USS dispute provoked a professional, as well as personal interest for me.

Before the dispute commenced, I was heartened by your email on February 21 where you explained that “if industrial action does take place, we are committed to minimise the impact on our students but we will continue to work with all concerned for a positive solution”. It was a far more supportive tone than the correspondence I saw colleagues at other institutions receiving.

In a statement on February 28, when discussing UUK and UCU entering ACAS you noted that “reaching agreement will require serious negotiations in good faith”. With this in mind, it is confusing that HR at Sheffield intend to deduct 25% of staff’s salary if they fail to reschedule teaching cancelled due to strike action within 2 days of strike action, and after five days withhold 100% of pay. How are staff able to continue delivering high quality teaching and research on non-strike days with such economic uncertainty swirling around them?

UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt has made it clear that 'universities that wish to exploit the law and punish their staff as much as possible are storing up problems for the future and risk prolonging the dispute". My question then, is that if you are committed to resolving the dispute with minimal disruption, working with all to find a positive solution, and negotiating in good faith, why are HR engaging in hostile and draconian bullying tactics over pay that are likely to extend the dispute? The actions of HR seem directly at odds with your public statements.

If previous industrial disputes have taught us anything it is that needlessly punitive practices during disputes continue to have a negative impact long after the dispute is over. None of us want to work in a university where resentment levels are high, and good will eroded. If you allow HR to push ahead with this policy you will create both. Please revisit this with HR as a matter of urgency.

With kind regards,

The undersigned staff and students of Sheffield University

Jo Grady, Management School
Miriam Miller, WPREU
Nik Reeves-Mclaren, Materials Science and Engineering
Valerie Hobbs, English
Meredith Warren, School of English & SIIBS
Michela Baldo, Modern Languages and Cultures
Helena Ifill, English
Anna Barton, School of English
Ciaran Roberts, Alumni of Department of East Asian Studies
Jonathan Ellis, English
Grace Whitfield, PhD in Management Department

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