Uni faces pay-outs to ex-staff

Joint ap­peal for af­fected work­ers to come for­ward

Stirling Observer - - FRONT PAGE - John Row­botham

A case con­sid­ered by the UK’s high­est court could lead to a cash wind­fall for some staff who lost their jobs at Stir­ling Univer­sity.

The Univer­sity and Col­lege Union chal­lenged the univer­sity over their right to dis­miss with­out con­sul­ta­tion staff on fixedterm con­tracts.

Af­ter a six-year le­gal bat­tle, the Supreme Court found in the union’s favour.

Now the UCU is try­ing to iden­tify fixed-term con­tract staff made re­dun­dant be­tween 2009 and 2012 as they may be en­ti­tled to com­pen­sa­tion over the univer­sity’s fail­ure to prop­erly con­sult with unions over their dis­missal.

The saga be­gan in 2009 when the univer­sity pro­posed 140 per­ma­nent staff re­dun­dan­cies as they bat­tled with a £4.4m bud­get deficit.

Con­sul­ta­tion was car­ried out with trades unions, in­clud­ing the UCU, over the per­ma­nent posts un­der threat.

How­ever, the univer­sity did not ex­tend the con­sul­ta­tion to staff on fixed term con­tracts who were also let go.

The move which was con­tested by the UCU who took four test cases to an em­ploy­ment tri­bunal which sided with them.

This judge­ment was over­ruled and went to the Supreme Court which in April 2015 backed the UCU.

Jus­tices said the staff had been “dis­missed as re­dun­dant” as the loss of their job had noth­ing to do with them but was be­cause of the cost­cut­ting re­quire­ments of the univer­sity.

Man­agers at the univer­sity should, there­fore, have con­sulted with unions over the dis­missal of the fixed-term staff.

Supreme Court jus­tices or­dered the mat­ter to be re­ferred back to em­ploy­ment tri­bunals.

In De­cem­ber last year the case came to an end with a joint agree­ment be­tween the two par­ties.

In an agreed state­ment the union and the univer­sity said: “The univer­sity and UCU are pleased to re­port that the long-run­ning le­gal dis­pute be­tween them in re­la­tion to col­lec­tive con­sul­ta­tion over fixed-term con­tract staff whose con­tracts ended, has been re­solved on terms which are con­fi­den­tial, but which both par­ties agree rep­re­sent a sen­si­ble and mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial so­lu­tion in the cir­cum­stances.

“Both par­ties now wish to put this mat­ter be­hind them and work to­gether to im­prove in­dus­trial re­la­tions and en­sure that the univer­sity con­tin­ues to be a place of ex­cel­lent re­search, learn­ing and teach­ing.

“If you were em­ployed at the univer­sity on a fixed (or lim­ited) term con­tract which ter­mi­nated dur­ing one of th­ese pe­ri­ods and at the ef­fec­tive date of ter­mi­na­tion had more than three months continuous em­ploy­ment you may be el­i­gi­ble for a pay­ment.

“If you fall into this cat­e­gory and have not re­ceived a let­ter from the univer­sity please con­tact them at (hrop­er­a­tions@ stir.ac.uk) for more in­for­ma­tion.”

A spokesman for UCU said they were un­able to add to the agreed joint state­ment, but on the union’s web­site their gen­eral sec­re­tary Sally Hunt com­ments: “The (Supreme) court’s rul­ing fol­lowed years of cam­paign­ing by us on the im­por­tant prin­ci­ple that all parts of the work­force de­serve pro­tec­tion when jobs are at risk.”

Ms Hunt said it was “rep­re­hen­si­ble” that the UK Gov­ern­ment had in 2013 “moved the goal­posts” so an em­ployer propos­ing to dis­miss fixed-term con­tract em­ploy­ees was no longer sub­ject to the same con­sul­ta­tion obli­ga­tions as would ap­ply to per­ma­nent staff.

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