Email to VC Koen Lamberts 20/09/2023

The below email was sent to VC Koen Lamberts and Head of HR Ian Wright on 20/09/23, following emails sent on 14/09/23 and 19/09/23 which offered opportunities for them to meet with Sheffield UCU to attempt to resolve the dispute. We have offered several examples of potential routes to finding a resolution, and we will keep members updated with any new developments.


Dear Ian, Koen (cc UEB),

We are still awaiting a response to my emails of Friday and yesterday inviting you to meet with us. This is disappointing given Monday’s assurance given to all staff that you remain open to seeking a resolution to this local dispute, in which you also indicated you would be willing to hear any alternative means of reaching a local resolution to the strike action which do not breach the University’s principle on partial performance.

Over the last several days, the landscape of Higher Education has been rapidly changing, with numerous HEI management teams engaging with their local UCU branches and reaching a successful resolution. The University of Sheffield currently risks being one of a rapidly decreasing number of universities facing strike action during the first week of term.

There are a wide range of resolutions which have been reached by other institutions. Examples we are aware of include various combinations of the following:

  • financial settlements that benefit all staff, including those not taking part in the MAB;

  • financial settlements that benefit groups of staff particularly impacted by the MAB, such as those on casualised contracts;

  • reduction in numbers of days deducted or the percentage of deductions in return for marking being completed by a given date, alongside commitments to adhering to fair workloading principles;

  • commitments to review local employment processes and procedures;

  • commitments to concrete improvement to local employment processes and procedures (e.g. no length of service requirement for access to parental leave)

  • agreements on initiatives that rebuild team and department relationships;

  • joint statements on moving forward in the national dispute.

For the avoidance of doubt, and as we have continuously emphasised, we are willing to engage in a creative exchange of potential ideas for a resolution. An agreement incorporating some combination of the above could prove acceptable to our members.

You are no doubt aware that key student-facing services offering financial, immigration, academic, welfare and wellbeing support are severely affected by this action. The Students’ Union has called for both sides to engage in negotiations, and we find it incredibly disappointing that we appear to be the only side committed to this.

We would like to highlight the positive impact on rebuilding local industrial relations that will benefit universities where agreement can be reached. Repairing divisions in our university community should be uppermost in all our minds.

We hope that you will be willing to move diaries as necessary to prioritise a meeting. We are aware that Koen has recently postponed several upcoming visits to departments which may offer some additional availability.


Robyn Orfitelli
Branch President, Sheffield UCU Committee