Union declares a formal dispute at Edge Hill

February 28, 2008

The lecturers' union at Edge Hill University has declared a formal dispute with managers amid concerns about personnel practices.

The 0-member branch's relationship with the university's human resources department has been deteriorating since 2006, when the introduction of a local version of the national contract caused an industrial dispute.

But relations hit a new low last year over four staff disciplinary cases, two of which resulted in staff dismissals. After complaints over how they were handed, a governor carried out a review of the cases and ordered that the cases be re-heard.

A report of a University and College Union branch meeting on 6 February says: "The review findings were damning, discrediting the HR role from start to finish."

The report also claims that the HR department did not follow university procedures when conducting the disciplinary hearings.

The union says industrial relations have now reached such a level of acrimony that the university is paying Eversheds, a commercial law firm, to draft letters to UCU officers.

As well as delaying correspondence, this move in effect means the union is dealing with solicitors with no concern over the "human element of HR", the UCU branch report says. "This destroys trust, encourages an adversarial culture and undermines partnership working."

The union says it will remain in dispute until HR is "put into a condition of competence within a declared culture of seeking sound industrial relations".

The union also wants the salary of one dismissed employee restored until the new hearing is concluded. Currently it is supporting the sacked academic through voluntary collections from union members.

Meanwhile, litigation in connection with the 2006 contract row is to commence in September. Sixty-five union members have lodged employment tribunal claims on the grounds that a contract was imposed on them before being withdrawn. Three test cases will be heard.

John Cater, the vice-chancellor, said in a statement to Times Higher Education: "Any internal matters relating to employees and any documents relating to any processes affecting employees (are) entirely private and confidential."

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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