The University and College Union has won a case against the University of Ulster over its failure to consult on redundancies, securing the maximum award for staff involved.
The case was taken by University College Union when 143 members of teaching and other staff lost their jobs in April 2016, after the University suffered a substantial reduction in DEL funding. Some of the University faculties were closed at the time and undergraduate numbers were reduced.
The Tribunal held that large scale redundancies were inevitable by June 2015 and that discussions ought to have begun with the Union much earlier than they did. The University had failed in its obligations, both under statute and its own redundancy policy. They found that the process was a “fait accompli” with no opportunity for input by the Trade Union who were “actively mislead” and “ostracised” by the University management. The Union were provided with insufficient time and information to meaningfully engage with counter proposals. Effectively, the Tribunal said, the University “put a gun” to the heads of the affected employees.
The University’s failures, the Tribunal said, meant that some staff were treated very poorly which was a “deeply unsatisfactory consequence”. The Tribunal found that failures were deliberate and there was an intention to keep the Union out of the process.
The case looked at the law on the duty to consult about redundancies and whether this had been complied with. It considered whether these redundancies amounted to dismissals, which it found they had. Consideration was also given to what protective award should be made to which staff and for what period. The Tribunal made the maximum award of compensation finding that the University failed egregiously in its duties.
Francis Hanna & Co Solicitors acted for the University College Union in this very significant case, with Counsel Tom Brown, from Cloisters.
“We are delighted with this result which has significant ramifications not only for the Trade Union and staff involved but also for the university and other employers, employees and unions involved in redundancies. The decision provides important guidance for employers on the duty to consult with Trade Unions and the timeliness and sufficiency of that consultation. Further it serves as an important reminder of the effect of an employer failing to adhere to its legal obligations.”