Why UCU needs an inquiry into the operation of Rule 13

Liz Lawrence – UCU President 2014-16

Rule 13 is the rule which deals with complaints against members.  Motion 15 to Congress, from Newcastle University, calls for the establishment of a review of the operation of Rule 13.

There has been a substantial increase in the number of Rule 13 complaints recently.  This may be related to pressures of the pandemic and the isolation generated by online meetings.  The number of cases is making considerable demands on the time of NEC members and UCU staff.

Being involved in a Rule 13 case puts considerable pressures and stresses on both complainants and respondents.  Writing a rule 13 complaint or response to a complaint can involve obtaining witness statements.  It can easily take the equivalent of a working week to lodge a complaint or a response.  This is something union activists have to fit into their schedules, despite the pressure of their day jobs and other union duties.  We know how hard pressed our activists are.

Another problem which needs investigating is the time the whole process, including the investigation, takes.  Cases can last several months or best part of a year.  The length of time adds to the stress involved.  It can also make maintenance of confidentiality more difficult.  This is especially the case where the dispute involves differences in a branch and there are already many witnesses to the events in question.

There is also a need to review more widely how much we should be using Rule 13 and what it contributes to UCU.  There are issues UCU needs to consider when operating a quasi-judicial process, which Rule 13 is.  We need to consider too how our procedures compare, whether favourably or otherwise, with disciplinary processes in universities and colleges and with procedures used by other unions.

In some cases, there has been concern that issues and differences better dealt with through UCU democratic processes of voting in meetings and elections, are presented as Rule 13 matters.

For all these reasons a review is timely.

Please support Congress motion 15.

Liz Lawrence

The author was President of UCU from 2014-16 and is a Member of the UCU Appeal Panel.  She is Secretary of UCU Yorkshire and Humberside Retired Members’ Branch and Assistant Secretary of Yorkshire and Humberside Region.

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