Ulster is abiding by the law

March 5, 2009

An anonymous employee of the University of Ulster has raised concerns about the institution giving priority to employing potentially redundant employees ("Ulster's ring-fenced posts come under fire", 19 February).

However, this is the law: an employer's first duty when it comes to redundancies is, where possible, to seek alternative work for threatened employees. What seems to irk your anonymous source is that the university is including redundancies of staff on fixed-term contracts. Again, this is the law: it is illegal to give less favourable treatment to employees on fixed-term contracts, and has been since 2002.

The nub of the matter seems to be that the anonymous correspondent thinks that "low-calibre fixed-term staff" are being given priority for permanent posts. While not accepting the assertion that workers on fixed-term contracts are necessarily lower calibre than permanent staff, the answer for Ulster is simple: make all new appointments permanent and this problem can be avoided.

Charlie Owen, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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