August 12, 2011

Stirling university ‘broke law’, employment tribunal rules

An employment tribunal in Glasgow has ruled that Stirling University broke employment law when it ended the fixed-term contracts of 100 of its employees without consulting the unions.

The staff in question were earning between £20,000 and £30,000 per year and could be awarded up to 90 days compensation by the employment tribunal. This would amount to a compensation payout of £500,000.

Under employment law, employers have a duty to consult with employees when making redundancies. The consultation process is designed to involve employees in the redundancy discussions and ensure that redundancies are as fair as possible.

When there is a collective redundancy situation, which occurs when over 20 employees are made redundant in a 90 day period, the employer is obligated to consult with an employee representative. If the employees are represented by a union, the representative will be the trade union representative.

The University and College Union (UCU) took Stirling University to the employment tribunal because the university failed to consult with the UCU representative on the collective redundancies.

Stirling University argued that because the employees were on a fixed-term contract, the termination of their contracts did not count as redundancies and therefore there was no obligation to consult.

Redundancy rights under employment law only apply to those with the employment status of ‘employee’ and not ‘worker’. The difference between the two terms can be difficult to make out.

In determining employment status, an employment tribunal looks at a number of factors. They will consider, amongst many other things, whether the person has worked exclusively for one company or organisation, whether tax and national insurance contributions were deducted by the employer, and whether the manager or supervisor was responsible for directing the work completed.

The Glasgow employment tribunal held that Stirling University did have a duty to conduct a collective consultation with the UCU representative and that they broke the law by failing to do so.

Stirling University claimed that it had held a number of meetings with the unions about the redundancies; however UCU said the meetings were not meaningful.

UCU Scottish official, Mary Senior, said the employment tribunal ruling is an “important victory” for the former staff, and for the thousands of university staff employed on fixed-term contracts around the UK.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good to have an international perspective. In England some of us are slowly coming to terms with THE's change in policy. THE's editorial used to be very fruitful in developing innovative approaches to wpb. This has changed. Posts are removed. Threads are closed. But they have demonstrated just what is possible - they made a real impact. Their success has been their downfall.

Aphra Behn