The University College Union (UCU) has been successful in a claim against Stirling University for protective awards. The University took the decision to end the contracts of 100 fixed term workers without carrying out collective consultation with the trade unions. This decision could end up being a very costly one for the University after an employment tribunal in Glasgow ruled that this was a breach of their legal obligations.
Section 188 of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 provides that in a situation where an employer is planning to make 20 or more people redundant within a period of 90 days, they have an obligation collectively to consult with the representatives of affected staff and discuss ways in which they could take steps to avoid or reduce redundancies.
The Tribunal held that the University was in breach of this duty because, when employees' fixed term contracts came to an end, it failed collectively to consult with the unions. The University had argued that they were under no such obligation as the duty to consult did not apply. The Tribunal will fix a hearing at a later date about the amount of compensation to be awarded.
A protective award of up to 90 days' pay can be made against an employer by an Employment Tribunal in respect of each employee for failing collectively to consult. This decision comes after the case of Lancaster University v The University and College Union in which the EAT upheld the decision of the Employment Tribunal to make a protective award for the failure collectively to consult about the end of a number of fixed term contracts. (See our previous e-update on this issue).