Saturday, July 07, 2007

Trouble at t'Metropolitan University


AS a trade unionist I am used to seeing appeals for sympathy, support and solidarity, from sisters and brothers fighting ruthless employers and/or repressive regimes at home and abroad - textile workers in Bangladesh fighting for decent pay and conditions, engineering workers in South Wales locked out by an American-owned company, dockers in Guatemala facing victimisation and violence, blacklisted Manchester electricians...

The class struggle is a worldwide fact of life, taking many forms, and in all kind of places. Last week I was forwarded this message:

Dear fellow trade unionist,

Over the past few months lecturers at London Metropolitan University have been fighting university management over union recognition—in May we voted unanimously to enter into a formal dispute over the issue.

Management have said that the pre-merger recognition agreement with Natfhe no longer stands following the creation of the UCU union from the merger of the AUT and Natfhe. Even though they had been formally talking to us at ACAS (on contractual issues) well after the union merger took place!

Management has also set up a staff association in an attempt to bypass the union.

This follows the 18-month dispute over new contracts that management attempted to impose on lecturers at the university.

Now they are planning to cut 60 posts at the university, including compulsory redundancies

It is clear that they have been planning these redundancies for months. The timing is planned to make it difficult for the union to fight back.

This Saturday they advertised lecturing posts in the business school—posts that members who will be facing redundancy could fill. With the closing dates for these posts being the 10 July how can they say that they have consulted lecturers, when they are advertising positions before informing lecturers that they face redundancy?

At an excellent meeting of 120+ members at London Met yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn (one of the university's local MPs) gave an excellent speech and pledged his full support. To that end, he and John McDonnell MP have tabled an EDM (Early Day Motion no 1776) in Parliament. Please write to your own local MPs and ask them to add their name to it.


In Solidarity,
Mark Campbell
London Met UCU Co-ordinating Committee
London Region UCU - HE Secretary

I've remarked before on how academic institutions which are popularly supposed to be removed from the hurly-burly of common business life, and idealised as centres of enlightenment offering new ideas ( we'll leave out Oxbridge) can behave like bad old Victorian employers when dealing with staff.
My old alma mater tried to prove how hard it was by taking a tough line against women cleaners, who had to strike for union recognition. After the women won, with support from students and some of the teaching staff, the uni hit back the following year by sacking left-wing lecturers. Maybe it's what goes with vice chancellors wanting to impress big business chiefs - "Look, we don't stand any nonsense from these union johnnies".

London Metropolitan, formed from the merger of what used to be the North London Poly and the Guildhall University (ex-City of London Poly) has more than one kind of affinity with the City. Among its alumni is jailed whizz kid Nick Leeson, the man who brought down Barings.

According to Wikipedia:

The salary increases paid to London Met's Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive over the past few years have frequently been regarded as newsworthy by the press. When London Met was formed from the merger of LGU and UNL, Roderick Floud initially took the role of Vice-Chancellor and Brian Roper became Chief Executive. In the year following the merger, Roderick Floud received a salary of £132,000, a rise of £19,000 (16.8%) due to merger-related bonuses. Brian Roper's salary increased by £34,000 to a total of £158,000, a rise of 27.4%. The average increase for Vice-Chancellors in that year was 6% [16].

In 2004-5, after assuming the combined role of Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Brian Roper was paid a salary of £214,000 (an increase of 13% on the previous year).
[17]. In 2005-6 he was paid £219,999 [18]. This makes Mr. Roper the 18th highest paid out of 161 VC's listed by the Times Higher Education Supplement. The University's Financial Statement for the year ending 31.7.06 showed a financial deficit of almost £9 million.

I don't know whether this background has any bearing on management deciding to show how business-like it can be by de-recognising the union, and pushing through redundancies, but it sounds like a fine example of British industry at its worst. (Incidentally, looking at what information is available - not from LMU - about LMU's governors, I see there are connexions not just to the City livery companies but to the building trade and those planning for the London Olympics).

Other employers will need little encouragement to behave like this if the university can get away with it. So trades unionists and anyone else who values democratic rights, including the right to union representation and collective bargaining, should sign the petition at
and pass this on to your contacts.

Also, ask your MP to support
Jeremy Corbyn's early day motion: LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY, if they have not done so already.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this London Metropolitan University has agreed to recognise and negotiate with the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU). Reporting this to a South-East Region TUC council meeting on October 27, 2007, the UCU delegate thanked other trade unions whose support and pressure on the University had forced the authorities to recognise her union.

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At 5:05 AM, Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Powerful post.

A good expose of the myth of academia seperate from society as large.

A task that is important is to not seperate academic workers from manual laborers.


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