AUT rep summons visitor to thrifty Birmingham

February 1, 2002

The leader of Birmingham University's academics' union has petitioned the visitor to determine whether new vice-chancellor Michael Sterling has set up a redundancy committee illegally.

William Edmondson, president of the Association of University Teachers at Birmingham, has told the university council that his decision to summon the visitor is based on legal advice. The committee met for the first time last week to consider how to make up to 100 staff redundant to save £5 million.

Dr Edmondson has been advised that the university failed to follow its own procedures in setting up the committee. According to the AUT, Professor Sterling's decision to have powers to appoint the members of the committee delegated from the council to himself runs contrary to internal rules, which state that delegation must be made to "a committee of persons" rather than to an individual.

It also claims that the university did not follow its own procedures by failing to consult with unions on possible redundancies before setting up the committee.

Dr Edmondson said the vice-chancellor and other senior managers chose to ignore these points when he raised them in council last week.

He said: "Members of staff think a redundancy committee is premature. The administrators and officials that got the university into its current mess are also expected to get it out of that mess."

The university wants to reduce costs in areas of decline, such as engineering, so that it can spend more on growth areas. Professor Sterling has warned that some compulsory redundancies might be unavoidable.

A university spokeswoman said: "The university is not aware of any irregularities and believes it has followed proper procedures in this matter. We wish to reach a constructive solution with the AUT concerning the restructuring necessary for the university's future success, and we are continuing discussions with the AUT over achieving change by voluntary means."

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