Editors' Note: Lancaster University students have organised an open letter to the vice-chancellor in solidarity with Dr Hearn, which can be signed (by anyone) here.
Just days following the announcement that the University and College Union (UCU) would resume strike action on 20th February, a date has been announced for an Employment Tribunal hearing against Lancaster University for trade union victimisation.
How did it come to this? @LancasterUCU now has an employment tribunal claim for trade union victimisation of its Branch President against employer @LancasterUni, with the preliminary hearing on 28 Feb, in the midst of the national dispute. Realistic talks are needed all round.— Lancaster UCU (@LancasterUCU) February 5, 2020
The hearing is for Dr Julie Hearn, the branch president of UCU. Dr Hearn is a Lecturer in the Politics, Philosophy and Religion (PPR) department, whose research is in the field of critical development studies. She convenes two undergraduate modules and an additional module at master's level, and has over 1,200 citations for her work.
In addition to her role as Branch President, Dr Hearn has been a member of UCU's National Executive Committee (NEC) and Higher Education Committee (HEC) since 2016. She is currently a candidate for re-election to the position for a third two-year term as part of a UCU Left slate, which includes the Lancaster branch vice-president Sunil Banga.
Suffering detriment in your employment because of trade union membership is illegal under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. According to the National Education Union (NEU), trade union victimisation could include: 'refusing to appoint you; offering you less favourable terms and conditions or pay; denying you access to training or time off; limiting your opportunities for promotion or transfer; or dismissing you or threatening you.'
This is not the first time UCU has taken Lancaster University to an Employment Tribunal. In 2010, an Employment Tribunal found that the University had breached its statutory duty to consult with the union when 20 or more workers were being made redundant. The result was that the University was forced to pay staff who were made redundant a full 60 days wages.
Universities across the UK have often used intimidatory tactics against active trade unionists, and Lancaster is no different. Just some of the recent examples are Ruskin College, University of Salford, and UCL. It appears managers in higher education see bullying and intimidation as legitimate tactics, rather than negotiating with the representatives of their workers.
Spineless will continue to keep readers updated as this story develops.