London Metropolitan University has begun laying off lecturers as a result of its long-standing dispute with lecturers' union Natfhe over a new contract for staff.
The move comes despite a letter to The Times Higher in September from vice-chancellor Brian Roper, in which he stated: "I have never said that this university intended to dismiss staff and none has been dismissed by virtue of this dispute."
This week Rob Thoyts, a lecturer in the Business School, said he had received a letter saying that unless he signed the new contract his employment would be terminated with effect from July 31. "You will already have received payment from the university for the months of September and October. Should your employment be terminated, you will therefore be required to repay this overpayment," it says.
Mr Thoyts said: "Depending on what happens in the next few days I am weighing up whether to take the university to tribunal or to the High Court. What they have done is highly unusual, particularly their request for a return of salary."
He said that he was confused as to why his employment is being terminated from July 31 and not August 31, as the new contract came into effect on September 1.
Mr Thoyts added that he taught three courses which were compulsory units on a number of degree courses. "My speciality is insurance and risk management and it will be hard for the university to replace me at short notice. I intend to carry on teaching no matter what the university does - my first loyalty is to the students," he said.
The Times Higher has also seen a letter of termination to another London Met lecturer. This lecturer has been told that continued refusal to sign the proffered contract will mean that their employment will be terminated with effect from August 31. Additionally, the lecturer has been asked to return one month's salary.
Natfhe said this week that these were just the letters it had been informed of, and that there could well be more.
Roger Kline, head of the universities department at Natfhe, said: "These letters are quite extraordinary as the university has just agreed to convene the university disputes committee to help resolve the long-running row. They must know that these letters are highly provocative."
The university was unavailable for comment.
Natfhe has been boycotting London Met since May. The dispute centres on management attempts to introduce a uniform contract across the university, formed two years ago when North London University merged with Guildhall.
Natfhe is strongly opposed to the North London contract, arguing that it compromises academic freedom.