King's settles after seven-year redundancy row

April 10, 2008

A seven-year campaign to prevent the first compulsory redundancy at King's College London has come to an end with an out-of-court settlement.

The case had become a cause celebre for the local branch of the University and College Union, which has protected the academic's identity by naming him "Dr X" in its campus communications. Before the settlement was reached, the union threatened to bring industrial action and an academic boycott against King's.

The lecturer, a scientist, was selected for redundancy in 2001 as part of strategic restructuring at King's. While other academics agreed to leave on voluntary packages, Dr X asked to be redeployed, but no alternative job was found.

After appeals against his redundancy were dismissed by the university, an employment tribunal held in July 2007 found in his favour, and in October 2007 King's governing council agreed to reinstate him.

But King's governing council also asked for a new redundancy committee to be set up, and in November 2007, it voted to make the lecturer redundant on new grounds.

An appeal was due to be heard in March 2008. After further negotiations the lecturer agreed to accept a payment in settlement of the dispute.

In a statement published on its website before the settlement was reached, the UCU said that the seven-year case had cost the university £70,000 in legal fees.

It said: "This is the first time an attempt has been made to achieve a compulsory redundancy at King's. Our view has always been that the college is only prepared to devote such time, effort and expense in pursuit of this goal because it wishes to threaten the jobs of other staff."

The UCU branch said that the tribunal victories were a triumph for academic freedom and vindication of the union's "opposition to management's attempt to argue that the colleague concerned did not fit into an existing research group. We considered this argument to be arbitrary and specious."

A King's spokesman said: "As this case has been settled, we have no comment to make."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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