Who let down whom in dispute? 1

October 13, 2006

The London Metropolitan University dispute over the attempted imposition of a contract that would have undermined members' professional role was the most complex higher education local industrial relations issue lecturers' union Natfhe ever had to deal with. The aftermath was always going to be messy given the utter intransigence of the employer.

Before going on sick leave, I spent days resolving the dispute in conciliation service Acas together with Roger Kline and the lead branch officers. This dispute was won by the steadfast determination of London Met members, their local representatives and Natfhe's national officials.

It is unfortunate, therefore, that Sally Hunt's paper to the University and College Union's higher education committee on the aftermath of the dispute ("UCU: We failed our members", October 6) was written without consulting me, the union's senior solicitor or any of the national officials involved.

It is noticeable that your "leak" chose not to send you the UCU's senior solicitor's report setting out the facts of the legal support.

After our members' victory, Natfhe financed a number of successful tribunal legal cases, winning more than £160,000 compensation for members who claimed unfair dismissal.

The advice to check home insurance policies follows the Solicitors' Costs Information and Client Care Code and the possibility of legal expenses insurance providing "before the event" insurance.

No one has suggested that members should be out of pocket as a result of challenging the university to reclaim lost pay. Indeed, the London Met reps had already quite rightly made proposals to ensure that this was not the case.

It is a pity that Sally Hunt failed to acknowledge the achievements at London Met. But London Met is only one university. If we are really going to do our dirty washing in public, let us look at the biggest bundle - the national higher education pay dispute.

Paul Mackney
UCU joint general secretary

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