London Met staff hold protest during QAA visit

April 29, 2005

Staff plan to refuse to invigilate exams at London Metropolitan University from next week, in an escalation of the dispute over employment contracts, writes Alison Goddard.

Members of lecturers' union Natfhe are already refusing to work with staff from the Quality Assurance Agency who are due to inspect the university from next month.

If the action were to thwart the QAA's inspection, London Met's status as a university could ultimately be called into question.

Union members are also boycotting appraisals, a performance reward scheme and other internal procedures.

Greg Barnett, who chairs the Natfhe co-ordinating committee at the university, said: "It is a planned process of escalation. If at any time management comes into talks, we will stop any future escalation, and if we get a resolution, we will call off the action."

Last Friday, Natfhe members voted two to one in favour of strike action. The local Natfhe branch was meeting to decide the details of the strike action as The Times Higher went to press.

The dispute, which is more than a year old, is over a new employment contract. London Met was formed from the merger of London Guildhall University and the University of North London. Its management wants all staff to move to a preferred contract based on the old UNL one, while the union would like to draft a contract from scratch.

A university representative said: "This is a reckless and irresponsible course of action driven by a union branch that is out of control. All mainstream academic staff at London Met have been on a unified contract since September 1, 2004. This contract was negotiated with Natfhe in 1999.

"Those voting for industrial action are only 10 per cent of the relevant staff constituency at the university. Natfhe is fully aware that the university has offered to discuss the staff handbook, which could lead to contractual variations, and that such discussions cannot take place under the threat of industrial action.

"It is time for Natfhe to reconsider its failed strategy and flawed tactics. The university remains available for discussions at any time."

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