Lecturer with MS takes Surrey to industrial tribunal

September 17, 1999

A disabled lecturer whose current contract was more than halved two years after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis has taken his university to an industrial tribunal.

George Mowat-Brown, 51, a part-time music lecturer at the University of Surrey for 17 years, brought claims of unfair dismissal and redundancy, disability discrimination and breach of contract against his employers at the tribunal in Croydon last week.

He claims his employer's attitude towards him changed after he was diagnosed in 1996. MS is a progressive disease affecting the muscles and is more debilitating at some times than at others.

Dr Mowat-Brown said: "They did not make the small changes I requested. They moved me to an inconvenient room, which was too far from where I needed to be. I think I was supposed to take the hint and go away."

A year later, the music department was absorbed into the school of performing arts and the following September he was put on a 20 per cent - about one day a week - contract. He claims this meant he was told a PhD student could have only 20 hours of his time in a year - including tutorials, reading and marking - and that she chose a different university as a result.

He resigned his post, alleging that when his original 55 per cent - about 2.5 days a week - contract was not renewed last September, it amounted to unfair dismissal.

In a statement, the university said: "The introduction of the new school's organisational structure included a university-wide commitment to provide professional administrative support for heads of schools and to improve the existing administrative support within them by pooling resources. A key feature of this strategy has been the removal of non-essential administrative tasks from academic staff.

"Each school is now led by a senior academic and its administration is led by a professional school administrator.

"As part of the reorganisation, Dr Mowat-Brown's administrative responsibilities were removed in September 1998. His valued academic input was expected to continue, but unfortunately he has declined to maintain his involvement with the school of performing arts."

Central to the case was that part-time staff at the University of Surrey do not have the same employment rights as full-time staff.A university spokesman admitted: "Our statutes refer only to full-time academic staff."

A decision on the case will be made in October.

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