Contract contretemps 1

May 7, 2004

We at lecturers' union Natfhe were surprised to read the letter from Roderick Floud, president of London Metropolitan University, ("Facts over fears", April 30), on the looming dispute over his institution's attempt to impose a new contract on staff employed on old London Guildhall University contracts. The facts are:

  • We agree that there needs to be a harmonised university-wide contract for academic staff. What is in dispute is whether this should be agreed by discussion or imposed by threat of dismissal
  • The discussions with Natfhe that his letter refers to have faltered because of London Met's refusal to engage in meaningful negotiations. Assurances by him that the London Guildhall contract would be the basis of the combined contract have been ignored
  • The contract the university seeks to impose is one negotiated by Natfhe, but it represents a compromise between what has been described in The Times Higher as the "contract from hell" and strenuous efforts by Natfhe to make it more reasonable. We have no doubt that all staff would welcome agreement on a properly negotiated contract, and if the university was listening, it would realise that.

Management by threat of dismissal is not compatible with the future of an institution committed to free inquiry, the pursuit of knowledge and critical thinking.

Natfhe remains ready to engage in serious negotiations to reach a sensible solution. Perhaps the president would like to pick up the phone.

Jill Jones
Higher education committee

Roger Kline
Head of universities department

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