Union loses epic contract battle

April 28, 2000

Lecturers have lost their epic battle to restore the working conditions they enjoyed when colleges were run by local authorities.

The London employment tribunal has dismissed claims by breakaway lecturers' union, Lecturers' Employment Advice and Action Fellowship, that the transfer of staff to new contracts in 1993 was unlawful. Leaf dismissed the judgment as "appalling" and general secretary David Evans said he will request a review of the decision.

College principals hailed the ruling as "a victory for common sense".

Leaf argued that pre-incorporation conditions were protected under European law. Under the Acquired Rights Directive, public-sector workers' collectively agreed contracts cannot be altered if their organisations are taken out of public-sector control, unless there is a major change in the nature of their organisation.

The tribunal found that incorporation marked a "radical change" in further education and said that the government had encouraged all the newly incorporated colleges to introduce new terms.

The case, technically a question of three lecturers' fight against contractual changes by Havering College in Essex, became a cause celebre as the Association of Colleges took up the fight.

AoC chief executive David Gibson said that the tribunal decision was a landmark ruling that accepted that lecturers signed new contracts when their colleges were removed from local authority control. "It is time to move on," he said.

Leaf plans to meet the head of the law directorate at the European Commission to pursue its request that the commission bring proceedings against the UK.

The university of life: the BBC tested the old adage that many scientists cannot even tie their own shoelaces when it challenged five experts to solve taxing problems on a remote Mediterranean island. Rough Science, to be broadcast in May, will feature scientists attempting to make their own toothpaste and insect repellent, as well as generating electricity, using only the island's natural resources and basic tools. According to participant Mike Bullivant, a chemist at the Open University, the project was a great success - even if not every experiment went according to plan.

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