Threat of 'lockout' at London Met sparks talk of staff boycott

February 7, 2003

Lecturers' leaders are planning an academic boycott of London Metropolitan University as industrial relations there collapse.

Staff have been told that they will have their salaries stopped if they take part in industrial action organised by lecturers' union Natfhe as part of the campaign for an annual £4,000 cost-of-living grant. Natfhe said that the threat amounted to a lockout for lawful industrial action. It accused London Met's managers of behaving like "Victorian mill-owners".

The campaign saw the capital's universities all but shut down by a one-day strike by four campus unions this week. "Our members are carrying out 99 per cent of their duties following a lawful ballot, but in response the employer is threatening to withhold 100 per cent of their pay," said Andy Pike of Natfhe. "Our action will not damage the students' experience, but a lock-out of lecturers really would."

He said Natfhe was likely to organise a national academic boycott of London Met, including research collaboration and conferences. Members at London Met are also urged to seek a no-confidence vote in London Met's chief executive, Brian Roper, and its vice-chancellor, Roderick Floud, who is chair of Universities UK.

London Met declined to comment this week.

All four unions involved in this week's strike said that vice-chancellors had "no excuses" for failing to negotiate an end to the dispute after the announcement of additional government funding for universities. They said the government's grant letter to universities last month made it clear that £170 million was available to "address issues of recruitment and retention" in 2003-04.

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