Union plans academic boycott of London Met

UCU threatens to ‘grey-list’ the institution unless it backs down on job cuts. Melanie Newman reports

August 31, 2009

An academic boycott of London Metropolitan University organised by the University and College Union will start on 1 September unless its demands are met.

The union says that managers are refusing to negotiate on job cuts or to put them on hold until a review of the university’s operations is complete. The university insists that it has been in formal consultation with all the campus unions since May.

Under the “grey-listing”, the UCU wants the academic community at home and abroad to refuse to work as external examiners on taught courses at the university, decline to attend or speak at conferences there and turn down offers of academic positions.

Academic journals edited or produced at the institution should also be boycotted, the union says.

London Met has been forced to repay more than £36 million to the Higher Education Funding Council for England after major inaccuracies were discovered in student completion data. Hefce has also reduced the university’s recurrent grant by £15 million.

The university initially said that more than 500 jobs were at risk as a result of the funding council’s bid to claw back funds.

A report into how the data inaccuracies came about, commissioned by Hefce from the accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward, found fault with the university’s senior management and governors. Another review, undertaken by Deloitte, has been commissioned by London Met’s acting vice-chancellor, Alfred Morris, and is due to report in the autumn.

The UCU wants any compulsory redundancies to be put on hold until after the Deloitte report has been published.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The staff and the students at London Met deserve a new leadership and new, open and productive industrial relations.

“Yet, in spite of our calls for a suspension of their proposals until after the independent reports have been made public, the management appears dogmatically committed to press on with its plans to make 550 redundancies.”

She added: “We are left with little alternative but to impose the most serious of sanctions, grey-listing… The UCU remains committed to a negotiated solution, and we hope that management will back away from a course that we believe will threaten the long-term future of the university.”

The university said it would be cutting only 198 jobs through voluntary and compulsory redundancy. A spokeswoman said: “The university entered into formal consultation with its recognised trade unions in May and has held regular, often weekly, meetings with them since this time. At a recent meeting with the unions, the position on compulsory job loss was discussed.

“As was made clear, the actual position is a total reduction from voluntary and compulsory redundancy so far estimated at 198.5 full-time equivalents.”

She added: “The encouraging scale of the response to our voluntary severance scheme and progress made in identifying redeployment opportunities mean, taken together, that the estimated number of compulsory redundancies is now less than originally anticipated and might reduce still further as we continue the redeployment exercise.”

The university has also identified non-staff savings of about £5.2 million.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com

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