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Stirling University loses legal fight over dismissed staff

24 November 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU has won a significant legal victory against the University of Stirling. The Glasgow Employment Tribunal ruled that the university broke the law by failing to properly consult with the union when it did not renew fixed term contracts of staff.

The university argued that because the staff were on a fixed-term contract the law that requires employers to consult when 20 or more members of staff may be made redundant did not apply. However, UCU argued that the expiry of a fixed-term contract could be a classed as a redundancy and, therefore when more than 20 fixed-term contracts were due to end, the university had a legal obligation to consult with the union on ways to mitigate and avoid the dismissals.

Employment Judge Paul Cape ruled in favour of UCU. The tribunal will reconvene at a later date to consider the award in this case.

UCU Scottish official, Mary Senior, said: 'This is a very important victory for the former members of staff at the University of Stirling who should not have been dismissed as they were. It is also an important ruling for the thousands of university staff on fixed-term contracts around the UK. Universities have to understand that they cannot just wait for fixed-term contracts to expire to get rid of staff.

'UCU was very clear that the law did not discriminate against fixed-term staff and put this point consistently to the university, but to no avail. It is regretful that UCU had to resort to costly and lengthy litigation to prove our point. The university should review its current position on redundancy consultation, so that instead of this costly litigation, both the union and university can use our energies and resources to protect jobs at Stirling.'

Section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 states: Where an employer is proposing to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less, the employer shall consult about the dismissals all the persons who are appropriate representatives of any of the employees who may be affected by the proposed dismissals or may be affected by measures taken in connection with those dismissals.

Where employers fail or refuse to consult, as Stirling University did, the Employment Tribunal can make a protective award, of up to 90 days' pay for each affected employee.