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Staff aggrieved as University of Birmingham leaves Archaeology in ruins
University of Birmingham Research Staff lodge grievance against Senior Management

Project and Research Archaeology Group lodged a grievance against Senior Management (Head of IAA, Head of Archaeology, Head of College of Arts and Law, and Operations Manager of the College of Arts and Law), within the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity (IAA) and College of Arts and Law (CAL) at the University of Birmingham in May 2012.

The grievance raises significant failures of Senior Management in terms of lack of support, leadership, financial hindrance, project obstruction and unjust criticism.

  • The grievance has not been investigated in an appropriate manner according to the University’s own usual procedure for investigating grievances.
  • The only people consulted during the investigation were those Senior Managers named within the grievance and the provided witnesses were not approached to corroborate evidence.
  • Arbitration of the grievance by the Head of College of Arts and Law is wholly inappropriate to the process as a complaint against the same person is raised within the grievance.
  • The aggrieved members of staff have now all been identified for redundancy, with the Group being dissolved as a result. This, it is claimed, is as a result of the failures of Senior Management (financial projects that could have sustained the group were blocked by Management).
  • The University is attempting to separate the failures of Senior Management from the redundancies to the Group, however the two are intrinsically linked.
  • The University response to the grievance has attributed the blame to the Project Group and elsewhere to their IAA colleagues, rather than acknowledging those responsible for creating and sustaining the conditions for failure, within which the Group had to undertake their remit, and upon which the Group is subsequently being judged.
  • Senior IAA Management remains absolved of all responsibility for the perceived failings of the Project Group, and indeed have subsequently been promoted: Head of IAA to Head of Theology and Religion; Head of Archaeology to Head of the new Department of Classics and Ancient History; Operations Manager of the College of Arts and Law to Operations Manager in the Institute of Advanced Studies (working under the chair of the IAA review panel).

The Project Archaeology Group was established in March 2011 following the review of Birmingham Archaeology, where a number of recommendations were set out by the University Executive Board for the structuring, operation and timetabling of the new division. The Group considers that the Senior Management have ignored, disregarded, and failed to implement (perhaps willfully) these recommendations, which has led to redundancies across the board for all staff in the current IAA review. In addition, the most recent review of the IAA was undertaken less than 12 months after the inception of the Group, making it impossible to combat the problems that the Group had been having with Senior Management.

Staff lodged a grievance against Senior Management in the IAA and CAL prior to the review to indicate the range of problems that they had been having. Rather than following the University’s own documented grievance procedure, the University HR department decided to attempt to address the grievance as part of the review consultation process. The three month grievance ‘investigation’ resulted in only two meetings with the aggrieved staff, and was concluded with a 5 page response which was factually incorrect, did not address the main points raised in the grievance, nor did it explain why Senior Management had been promoted when the Group that they had failed were being made redundant as a result. None of the listed witnesses had been consulted to provide a balanced view and the issues with Senior Management were not addressed as it was indicated that witness would only substantiate the argument already presented. The final IAA review documentation simply identifies the grievance in two paragraphs as “concerns”.

The College initially implied that rather than a failing in Senior Management, it was lack of funding for the Project Group that was at fault. The grievance clearly demonstrates that Senior Management prevented several instances for funding from being pursued.

The College then implied that rather than a failing in Senior Management, it is the model under which the Project Group was set up that was at fault. As this model was implemented by CAL the implication is that the Project Group was set up to fail. Evidence for this is also included in the grievance.

Finally, the College is implying that rather than a failing in Senior Management, it is the lack of projected undergraduate numbers, that is at fault. As the focus of the roles of the Project Group is post-graduate teaching and research, this also cannot be used to justify wholesale redundancies in the research staff.

It is our belief that the failings in Senior Management identified within the grievance HAVE led to the redundancies, not just within the Project Archaeology Group but throughout the IAA as a whole, and the College’s desperate attempts to ignore the grievance by denying a fair hearing and due process, suggest that the College are well aware of this.

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