The Educational Institute of Scotland is considering legal action against Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen which was set to introduce new contracts for teaching appointments yesterday.
The union has been holding discussions with university principal David Kennedy, but saw the way forward as national talks through the Conference of Scottish Centrally Funded Colleges, the negotiating body on pay and conditions for the new Scottish universities and the majority of higher education colleges.
But Dr Kennedy said the unions had refused to reach an agreement on conditions since 1987, leaving RGU with no alternative but to take action itself, given the "unsatisfactory nature" of the existing contract.
"It would be irresponsible of the university to continue to issue a contract to people taking up new teaching appointments when the advice of lawyers is that it is outmoded, ambiguous, and leaves the university in a vulnerable position," he said.
But Marian Healy, EIS further and higher education officer, said the EIS University Lecturers' Association anticipated challenging Dr Kennedy's right to act unilaterally. "He is undermining the role of the conference, and the commitment to maintain a national forum. We certainly don't want to find ourselves in the same position as further education colleges, where everything is negotiated locally," she said.
Dr Kennedy said the new contracts would provide staff with generous conditions on a par with those in the majority of higher education institutions.