Sudden staff redundancy queried

November 4, 1994

A governor of Portsmouth University has asked the Higher Education Funding Council to investigate the college because of concern over the sudden redundancy of the deputy vice chancellor, whom staff fear may have been unjustly sacked.

Paul Edmondson, a support staff governor at the university and secretary of the joint trade union committee, has written to Graeme Davies, council chief executive, asking him to examine the way the university management dealt with John Pickering, whose post as deputy vice chancellor was made redundant following an unpublished management review.

Professor Pickering has since left the university leaving behind serious doubts as to whether he resigned, accepted redundancy or was forced out. He has refused to comment on his position.

The situation has been further complicated by a statement from Professor Pickering's solicitors, Keeler West partnership, claiming that a report of a governors' meeting circulated recently to all staff after his departure implies by innuendo that he has been guilty of financial impropriety.

Keeler West says that it has been instructed to issue proceedings for libel unless the university issues an apology which can be circulated as widely as the original memorandum. The university says it has placed the matter in the hands of its lawyers and that the proceedings will be defended.

In a statement last month, the joint trade union committee said that staff received the news of the redundancy with shock and disbelief. University unions had not been consulted over the decision which they said had been taken in secret and was irrational given Professor Pickering's undoubted financial management skills.

A joint trade union meeting was expected to be held this week to discuss whether Professor Pickering was victimised.

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