Department and section heads have been pondering the implications of an email sent to them on 24 January by the Director of HR, using the stentorian address ‘Industrial Action’, informing them that ‘there will be actions required of you as Heads of Department/Section to support in the preparation and management of the industrial action.’ Fair enough. But, the memo continues, ‘the 2016 Head of Department Review reaffirmed that leadership during industrial action is a requirement of the Head of Department role, alongside other leadership roles. As such, we will require academic HoDs who are intending to exercise their right (given they have an underpinning academic contract) to participate in industrial action to alert us in advance. We will be asking any participating HoDs to temporarily stand down for the purposes of managing industrial action and potentially other duties and agree with us a replacement HoD.’ It’s unclear whether this requirement is intended to apply to section heads also.

Readers will probably be aware that one of the main protections union members have when they go on strike is that they are under no obligation to inform anyone of this in advance – and these protections also apply to HoDs, surely? The implied threat is that HoDs – and maybe section heads also – who fail to abide by this communiqué may find themselves removed from office. Over to you, lawyers…

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