Portsmouth far from shipshape

November 3, 1995

As the person who represented Mrs Tall in her claim for constructive dismissal against the University of Portsmouth, I would like to take issue with Mike Bateman and the "facts" he disclosed in his letter to you (THES, October ).

Mrs Tall's claim at the industrial tribunal was for reinstatement if she won. This claim has been consistently pursued by Unison on her behalf and consistently rejected by the university.

Once Mrs Tall won her unfair dismissal claim the question then turned to that of appropriate remedy. The chairman of the tribunal gave a very clear indication that the reinstatement claim should be reconsidered. Any practising employment law adviser will tell you that constructive dismissal, turning as it does on the issue of the breakdown of relationships between an employer and employee, sits very uneasily (in law) with a request for reinstatement.

Any practitioner at industrial tribunals will also tell you that you ignore a steer from the chairman of the tribunal at your peril.

With this in mind Unison discussed potential remedy with the university. I was told at the outset of these discussions that the university had no intention of reinstating Mrs Tall. Indeed, under the law as it currently stands an employer cannot be forced to reinstate someone.

Outside of the narrow legalistic confines of employment law there is a bigger issue here - dare I say a moral issue? Mrs Tall was unfairly dismissed. She did the right thing and others did not. The University of Portsmouth could if it wished do the decent thing by offering Mrs Tall her job back. Mrs Tall is unemployed and has barely recovered her earnings lost since she resigned.

Perhaps if Mike Bateman (and others) concentrated on the wider moral issues the university would be better served and in better shape.

Jim Hoggart Senior regional officer, Unison

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