Staff seek damages over move to local contract

January 10, 2008

Edge Hill University is facing legal action from about 80 of its academic staff after all employees were moved on to a local contract in 2006.

The academics have filed claims for compensation against Edge Hill, which they argue illegally imposed a local version of the national contract when it implemented the 2004 Framework Agreement.

The complaint has been made despite the fact that an industrial dispute over the contracts was successfully settled within months of the changed conditions. The university says no staff suffered any detriment and that the majority are now better off.

Edge Hill moved all staff on to the local contract in August 2006 after a ballot of staff members. Lecturers' union Natfhe, now merged into the University and College Union, complained that the ballot had been held during the summer when most academics were away, and it argued that the contract would restrict career progression and reduce salaries.

The dispute ended within three months, in November 2006, after the intervention of the university's governors and the withdrawal of backing for the disputed contract from support staff union Unison.

It is understood that the legal claim is based on the fact that if the contract has been imposed on staff illegally, staff are entitled to compensation whether or not they suffered detriment. Test cases will be heard in April.

John Cater, Edge Hill's vice-chancellor, said the final deal, which offered two additional progression points for all academic staff and no university-imposed eligibility barriers to pay progression, was recognised as one of the best in the sector.

"No member of staff was made redundant as a result of this process, and almost all staff are earning significantly more (and no staff less) than if the Framework Agreement had not been implemented," he said.

He said that 296 staff, or 29 per cent, had received pay increases of up to Pounds 7,000 a year.

A spokesman from the UCU's national office said the union had withdrawn its collective claims against the university but that "some UCU members had chosen to lodge individual claims".

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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