Heriot-Watt's failure to consult 'against the law'

April 2, 2009

The University and College Union at Heriot-Watt University has accused managers of breaking employment law by warning individual members of staff that they are at risk of compulsory redundancy ahead of a formal consultation.

The union said Heriot-Watt had initially consulted on plans for a voluntary redundancy scheme in a bid to save £3.5 million. Sufficient volunteers had been found to meet this target, said Deborah Shepherd, regional support officer at the UCU.

"At the last moment (it) decided to close the voluntary redundancy scheme and introduce compulsory redundancies. We believe that up to 30 people have been told that they are at risk ... The university has not met its legal obligation to consult," she said, adding that the savings target had been raised to £4.9 million.

Heriot-Watt said in a statement: "On 23 March, the university's court approved the move to start consultation on compulsory redundancies. This ... will begin at the end of April. Part of the consultation will include pursuing measures to avoid compulsory redundancies."

It said that last year's voluntary scheme targeted 50 posts to release cash from underperforming areas. So far, more than 40 redundancies had been agreed, but 20 more were now required.

"Negotiations for voluntary release are still under way. (We hope) to avoid compulsory redundancies," the university added.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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