Contract talks at London Met fail

March 4, 2005

Conciliation talks between lecturers' union Natfhe and London Metropolitan University have collapsed, leaving the way open for renewed industrial action.

The failure of the talks, overseen by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, means that Natfhe could resume its academic boycott.

The union plans to call a meeting of academic staff next Wednesday to consider whether to ballot again for industrial action.

Each side blamed the other for the failure of the talks.

Natfhe has agreed to go for mediation - the next stage in dispute resolution, whereas Acas suggests a solution rather than just facilitating talks.

A spokesperson for London Metropolitan University, said: "This is now being considered."

Roger Kline, head of Natfhe's universities department, said: "During the nine days of talks, the university failed to field a full team on seven days.

"The management team refused to meet the Natfhe team face to face at all and, after the first two separate-rooms meetings, even refused to discuss the academic contract that caused the dispute."

In response, the university spokesperson said: "In an effort to improve progress, the management side offered to hold intensive face-to-face discussions involving reduced membership from each side, ie, two from each side. This was rejected by Natfhe. The management side therefore offered open-ended face-to-face discussions involving the full membership from each side commencing on March 8. This too was rejected by Natfhe."

The union and management are engaged in a long-running and bitter dispute over a new contract introduced on the north London campus of the university last year.

Natfhe has drawn up a draft contract and has sent it to all heads of departments at the university for comment. "It is our view that many of the senior management are unhappy with the handling of this dispute by the vice-chancellor and the head of human resources. We believe our draft contract is typical of the sector," said Mr Kline.

The union has also sent its proposed contract to governors. "Rather than propose sections of the London Guildhall contract or make extensive amendments to the LMU 'preferred' contract, Natfhe felt it would be much more constructive, and easier for both parties to agree, to start from scratch," its letter to governors says.

claire.sanders@thes.co.uk

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