Borders penalised for unfair dismissal

A senior lecturer in health studies at Borders College has been awarded the maximum compensation for unfair dismissal of Pounds 11,000 by an industrial tribunal.

Sandra Lewis was made redundant after a curriculum shift to social care, away from her area of expertise in nursery nursing.

But the tribunal found the redundancy "manifestly unfair", and said it saw no evidence of any efforts to redeploy Mrs Lewis, which is a legal obligation for institutions.

"It seemed to the tribunal that when the post was identified as surplus, the postholder was assumed to be redundant," the tribunal found.

Mrs Lewis was a senior academic who had demonstrated flexibility over a number of years and had an excellent record of service, the tribunal said. Her proposals for a new timetable were discarded without proper consideration, and the college ignored the suggestion from her union, the Scottish Further and Higher Education Association, that she become curriculum leader for health studies.

Graham Alison, general secretary of the SFHEA, said it was significant that the award had been made against Borders College, where the academic staff had last autumn called on Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, to set up an inquiry into the college's management.

Just before Christmas, the SFHEA and Educational Institute of Scotland had jointly sent detailed complaints to Mr Lang, Mr Alison said.

"Perhaps now that Mrs Lewis's complaint has been upheld unanimously by an independent tribunal the Secretary of State will be moved to act," he said.

A Scottish Office Education Department spokeswoman said a report from the college's board of management had been submitted earlier this year.

But the SOED had then sent in its own auditors because some areas of financial procedure needed further investigation. A report was currently being considered by ministers.

Campbell Pearson, the college's principal, was not available for comment.

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