A Scottish Court of Session judge has declared unlawful a bid by Robert Gordon University, in Aberdeen, to increase the working hours of new staff.
The Educational Institute of Scotland, which mounted the legal challenge, hailed the decision as "an important victory", but the university has warned there may have to be legislation to allow it to compete with most other institutions.
The university wanted to introduce revised contracts for all new teaching posts, promoted posts and the renewal of short-term contracts, cutting holidays from ten to six weeks, and increasing the working week from 32.5 hours to 37. It claimed this brought it into line with the traditional universities and former English polytechnics. But the EIS, which feared the university was attempting to introduce local bargaining, condemned the move as ushering in the worst conditions in the country.
According to the EIS, the revised contracts contravened agreements made in 1988 through the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for Further Education, while RGU argued that these were no longer binding. But Lord Milligan ruled the SJNC settlement had been very much concerned with future recruitment, and that the legislation allowed for it to remain in force despite the subsequent abolition of the SJNC.
University secretary David Caldwell said: "We are surprised to find ourselves in the position where we can't employ new teaching staff without giving them ten weeks' holiday, plus public holidays. "