Belfast Telegraph

Ulster University is found to have misled union over job cuts

By Cate McCurry

Ulster University has lost a legal battle after it failed to consult a trade union on staff redundancies and was found to have deliberately kept its representatives in the dark.

The university's human resources manager was also found to have "actively misled" the University and College Union (UCU) over the decision-making process.

Details emerged after the UCU won an industrial tribunal against university management over its failure to consult on redundancies.

Employees who were made redundant have been awarded a protective award of 90 days' salary - the highest amount allowed in such cases.

The ruling refers to a very serious failure to consult at all, warranting the full protective award.

It also found the failure to consult to be "deliberate in that management wanted to keep the trade union side in the dark", and that the union had been "actively misled" by Ronnie Magee, the HR manager at the time "in relation to the advanced nature of the decision-making process".

It further found it significant that the media had more details at earlier stages about course closures than the union.

Employment law states that when embarking upon a potential redundancy situation, employers must consult recognised trade unions with the aim of reaching agreement on ways to avoid redundancies and mitigate their effects.

Ulster University management closed specific courses and research areas and targeted staff within those for redundancy.

By the time UCU was informed of management's proposals, courses had already been removed from marketing materials and from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

UCU Northern Ireland official Katharine Clarke said: "The tribunal's decision has vindicated everything the UCU had been saying about the university's redundancy process.

"Our members did not volunteer for severance; they were told to take an enhanced package or be dismissed with a reduced payment.

"We are glad the tribunal agreed with us that this was putting a gun to our members' heads."

In a statement, Ulster University said: "The university has received and acknowledges the findings of the tribunal.

"It is a detailed judgment and we will take time to consider it carefully.

"Mistakes have been made and we will ensure all appropriate lessons are learned."

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