Strike threat sets up national talks

December 29, 1995

A threatened industrial dispute at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen is likely to precipitate national talks on conditions of service next month.

The University Lecturers' Association of the Educational Institute of Scotland had called for industrial action over RGU's proposals to introduce new contracts with longer working hours and shorter annual holidays for staff appointed or promoted after January 1.

Following a meeting of the governors, the university said a further attempt would be made to negotiate with the union, and that it was seeking agreement for the new contracts to come into effect from the beginning of February.

But Jack Dale, further and higher education secretary of the EIS, said: "I welcome the fact that the university has extended the timescale and is now talking of negotiations. But we regard this as a national issue and want negotiations to take place nationally."

The unions are now likely to meet the Conference of Scottish Centrally Funded Colleges in January. The conference, which includes the new Scottish universities and the majority of higher education colleges, negotiates nationally on pay and conditions.

The EIS has warned that RGU would be breaking the law in unilaterally changing contracts for new staff, but the university believes it has the legal right to do this.

Brian Fraser, the conference's industrial relations adviser, said: "We would wish to see a change in working arrangements and do want to speak with the trade unions nationally about hours and holidays, and how they are linked with salary structures.

"Our fear is that if we are unable to talk meaningfully about change with the unions, our member institutions will see their patience exhausted and will wish to try the Robert Gordon route by doing something for new staff."

The RGU proposals include increasing the working week to 37 hours, and reducing annual leave to 41 days. This would mean a 25 per cent increase in the number of hours worked annually, the university said.

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