V-c loses Natfhe confidence vote

November 25, 2005

Lecturers at Liverpool John Moores University have overwhelmingly backed a vote of no confidence in the institution's vice-chancellor Michael Brown and its governing body, writes Tony Tysome.

Out of 425 Natfhe members balloted, 129 returned papers (30 per cent) and 112 (86 per cent) were in favour of a no-confidence vote. The ballot follows the university's refusal to respond to calls for an inquiry into circumstances surrounding the sacking of a professor two years ago.

The university dismissed the vote as unrepresentative, arguing that the issue had been raised solely by academic union activists and that only Natfhe members were balloted.

Transport expert Lewis Lesley accepted a compromise agreement and what is understood to be a six-figure payoff from the university after questions were raised about his dismissal that followed his public criticisms of a proposed tram system for Merseyside.

Natfhe called for an independent inquiry after documents held by Professor Brown at the time of Professor Lesley's dismissal were subsequently publicly disclosed.

They revealed that the vice-chancellor had been in correspondence about Professor Lesley's case with the company proposing the tram system, Merseytravel.

The union argued that, had the documents been made available at the time, Professor Lesley would have been in a position to go to an industrial tribunal to fight for reinstatement.

Adrian Jones, Natfhe's regional official, said that the union would now be sending the results of the ballot and a renewed call for an inquiry to Cherie Booth, the university's chancellor, and to Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary.

In a statement, the university said the vote of no confidence had "no legal or formal consequence" and was unrepresentative of the views of most staff.

It said: "If a large number of staff were unhappy with the way in which the university was dealing with issues, it would cause great concern to both the governing body and the senior management team.

"However, of an academic staff numbering over 1,199 individuals, Natfhe represents just 425 people and in their latest attempts to ballot their members, we understand that just 129 responded. This is in no way representative of the university staff."

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