Unions at the University of Ulster have warned they are on a "collision course" with management over proposed staffing arrangements, which could make it the first United Kingdom university on a "greylist" of bad employers.
The main unions for both academic and non-academic staff are set to ballot their members on joint strike action if the university serves notice to axe existing procedural and recognition agreements at the end of this month.
A joint union spokesperson said this would be seen as a direct attack on the rights of staff to representation by elected trade union officials. The unions are collectively refusing to discuss the proposals while there is a threat that these will be imposed.
But Brendan Hamilton, the university's director of human resources, said: "I would like to state unequivocally that the review does not mean derecognition of any or all of the seven unions in the university, nor is it an attempt to neutralise union activity."
The university had been trying to implement an employee relations review for over two years, but the unions had rejected its initial request to do so through the Labour Relations Agency, the province's conciliation and advisory body, he said. The university had accepted a mediation offer from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and was committed to exploring ways to bring this about.
In a letter sent to all staff this week, Mr Hamilton said the model review suggested by management had operated in the public sector for many years and was tried and tested in practice.