Union faces legal threat over boycott

By Leon Symons, October 24, 2008

Academics have come out in support of a new move to take the University and College Union to court unless it retracts a national conference resolution that has threatened a "back-door" boycott of Israel.

The anonymous litigants have called on the union, via solicitors Mishcon de Reya, to repay any union funds it may have spent on enacting the motion.

In May the UCU conference passed a resolution asking academics to consider the moral and political  implications of any links with Israeli institutions.

However, observers believed that this was another attempt to re-introduce the academic boycott brought in last year and eventually dropped after legal advice that it was unlawful and could not be implemented.

ishcon de Reya wrote to UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, on September 26 saying that the new resolution was ultra vires [beyond its power] and gave the union 14 days to answer.

It also warned the union's trustees, Professor Neil Macfarlane, Fawzi Ibrahim, Dr Dennis Wright and Paul Russell, would be sued individually for the recovery of any money spent. UCU denied exceeding its legal powers, according to The Guardian, and also denied it had spent money carrying out the resolution.

A UCU spokesperson said: "It is regrettable that some members of the union have apparently chosen to raise a grievance through the courts, rather than through the union's own democratic processes."


Last updated: 10:53am, October 23 2008