Soas to review library layoffs

November 4, 2005

The School of Oriental and African Studies is to review its decision to sack two prominent librarians in a last-ditch attempt to avert industrial action, writes Phil Baty.

At a special governors' meeting last week, the Soas board agreed a "three-pronged" internal review of its decision to lay off specialist librarians in Korean and Chinese, which prompted an international outcry and led at least 18 Soas academics to resign from non-contractual duties.

The Association of University Teachers is conducting a ballot on industrial action at the school.

In a statement issued last week, Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the Soas governing body, announced a response to AUT claims that the librarians had been sacked in contravention of the school's redundancy procedures. He said the school's audit committee, assisted by a senior Soas academic, "would be asked to review the school's human resources processes and to determine whether they have been followed in the case of the library, and whether changes are required".

He said there would also be "an externally led review of library strategy", which would "report on library provision and structure at Soas regarding research and teaching needs, linguistic and financial considerations, funding council requirements and other relevant matters".

The governors also agreed to "seek third-party mediation", likely to be from arbitration service Acas, "to address the human resource and industrial relations issues".

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