London Met staff were unfairly dismissed

December 9, 2005

An employment tribunal has ruled in favour of a group of staff at London Metropolitan University who claimed that they were unfairly dismissed when the university tried to put them on new, inferior contracts.

Lecturers' union Natfhe said this week that the 23 staff involved expect to receive about £160,000 between them in compensation, but the sums have not been confirmed by the tribunal.

London Met prompted one of the longest and most bitter industrial disputes in higher education when it tried to impose new contracts on 387 lecturers.

It said the contracts were necessary to "harmonise" terms and conditions after the university was created by the merger of North London and Guildhall universities.

Academic staff from Guildhall were to be put on the same contracts as staff at North London, which, said Natfhe, extended teaching hours, reduced research opportunities and cut professional autonomy.

The university issued redundancy notices to the 387 staff and said they would be moved to the new contract automatically. The union declared a dispute, which involved a week-long strike and a marking boycott. The dispute was settled after 16 months, when London Met agreed to improve the contract on offer.

This week, the London Employment Tribunal upheld a claim of unfair dismissal brought by 23 of the 387 lecturers. Its reasoning had not been published as The Times Higher went to press, and a decision had not been reached on any financial compensation.

But Jenny Golden, a London regional official at Natfhe, said that staff were likely to get £160,000 between them, based on length of service.

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