The head of a union branch at London Metropolitan University has described his compulsory redundancy as an attempt to “decapitate the union”.
However, London Met dismissed the claims by Max Watson, secretary of the university’s Unison branch, saying that there was “simply no evidence to support the dishonest claim that any compulsory redundancies are ‘politically motivated’”.
A university spokesman added that Mr Watson’s redundancy also had no link to his unsuccessful employment tribunal last year, in which he said he had been victimised for his trade union activities. During the case, it emerged that Alison Wells, the university secretary, had said in private emails with a colleague that there was “no plague virulent enough” for Mr Watson.
He was forced to leave the university this month as part of a cost-cutting exercise, which has resulted in the loss of around 165 jobs – about 10 per cent of the university’s workforce.
Although the majority agreed to voluntary redundancy, around 35 staff members had to accept compulsory redundancy.
Mr Watson, an administrator at the university’s Working Lives Research Institute for the past nine years, said he had been targeted by London Met for his part in recent strike action, as well as for previous previous run-ins with university management.
“Everyone believes this is the latest attempt to get rid of me and decapitate the union,” he said.
In 2013, he was suspended from the university for his role in the appointment of Jawad Botmeh at the WLRI in 2008.
When Mr Botmeh was appointed a staff governor in 2013, it emerged he had been convicted in 1996 over the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in London. Mr Botmeh has always maintained his innocence.
Mr Watson was charged with serious misconduct relating to Mr Botmeh’s appointment and the two men were suspended, but both later had their suspensions lifted and they returned to work. Mr Watson then brought an unsuccessful tribunal case against the university.
A university spokesman said that the WLRI had seen a “drastic reduction in staff as academics have retired or moved on”, and that administration would now be done centrally at faculty level.
More than 800 people have signed a petition in support of Mr Watson.