'Duping' claim in UCE row

Lecturers' union leaders have accused managers at the University of Central England of "duping" staff into signing new contracts that bypass employment protection rights, writes Tony Tysome.

About 50 engineering and computing lecturers who are preparing to move from the university to a Technology Innovation Centre at Birmingham's new landmark development, Millennium Point, have signed the contracts.

The university offered transferring staff a choice between accepting the contracts and taking an early pay rise, or remaining on their old contracts and moving to the innovation centre under Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment arrangements.

Sue Davies, spokesman for lecturers' union Natfhe, said staff had been pressured by management into signing the new contracts.

"We understand there are many who signed who did not really wish to but felt they were not being given much choice. Our concern is that they have been duped into signing contracts that bypass Tupe regulations and put them in a position where there is a break in their employment," she said.

Peter Knight, UCE vice-chancellor, said: "Most staff have been happy to accept the new contracts in full knowledge of what they contain. We made it absolutely clear that those staff who did not sign the new contracts would transfer under Tupe existing contracts."

The concerns will add to tension between union representatives and management who are already locked in a dispute over compulsory redundancies in the university's built environment department.

This week Natfhe said all five lecturers who have been sent redundancy notices would be appealing, but the university said it had received only two so far.

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