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Ban on new conditions challenged

Robert Gordon University in Dundee is appealing against a Court of Session judgment which ruled that a bid to introduce revised contracts for new staff was unlawful.

The appeal centres on whether agreements made in 1988 through the former statutory body, the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee for Further Education, are binding on new contracts. Robert Gordon was at that time a central institution and therefore part of the FE negotiating machinery.

Lord Milligan ruled against the university that subsequent legislation allowed the settlement to remain in force despite the SJNC's abolition. But David Caldwell, the university's secretary, said: "We are advised that there is sufficient doubt about what the law intends for it to be worth going to appeal."

The university argued that revised contracts, which increased working hours for all new academics and existing staff who were promoted or had short-term contracts renewed, would bring it into line with the older universities and former polytechnics.

Mr Caldwell said contracts that stipulated 10 weeks' holiday were an anomaly. The Educational Institute of Scotland, which mounted the legal challenge, claims that cutting holidays to six weeks and increasing the working week from 32.5 hours to 37 hours ushered in the worst conditions in the country.

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