London Met strike planned for QAA visit

April 8, 2005

London Metropolitan University could be brought to a standstill during its first audit by the quality watchdog as a result of staff strikes and a continuing academic boycott.

As the row over the university's imposition of new staff contracts reached its one-year anniversary this week, it emerged that lecturers' union Natfhe was planning to call its members out on strike during the university's highly sensitive audit by the Quality Assurance Agency next month.

The union confirmed that it had sent out ballot papers this week seeking a mandate for industrial action, to ensure it could act in time for the QAA visit in mid-May.

An international academic boycott of London Met, backed by the Association of University Teachers, has also been revived after attempts to end the stalemate via the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service collapsed.

Roger Kline, head of the universities' department at Natfhe, said: "After one year of major industrial dispute, and with a renewed academic boycott, it is hard to believe that the QAA inspection will not reflect the deep discontent of academic staff.

"As far as our members are concerned, the QAA inspection should demonstrate the complete lack of confidence that staff overwhelmingly have in the way the university is being run. If we get the votes, we will time our action to coincide with the QAA's visit."

The union declared a dispute with the university this time last year over a plan to move former London Guildhall University staff on to the same contracts as staff at the former University of North London, which Natfhe said had "more prescriptive" terms.

Brian Roper, chief executive and vice-chancellor of London Met, said: "The turnover of staff is low and falling, and life continues as normal. It would be all too typical of the reckless behaviour of Natfhe for it to disrupt the QAA audit. The union has lost contact with reality. It's time for Natfhe to realise that there are more important issues for us to work on together than this non-story.

"The alleged academic boycott is having no effect whatsoever. All 900 full-time academic staff at the university have been on new contracts since September 1, 2004."

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