Central refuses to climb down

4th June 2004 at 01:00
The board of management at Central College in Glasgow has decided not to appeal against the tribunal ruling that it had unfairly dismissed the leading union activist there. The college is understood to have received legal advice that any challenge was unlikely to succeed.

The tribunal also ordered the college to reinstate Jim O'Donovan, who was branch secretary of the former College Lecturers' Association and has since been elected national president of the successor Further Education Lecturers' Association, part of the Educational Institute of Scotland. But this appears to be causing the college board more difficulty.

It is believed to be unwilling to agree to Mr O'Donovan's reinstatement without conditions, which an EIS insider described as "red rag to a bull stuff".

The college board none the less wants to negotiate on this point with Mr O'Donovan's legal representatives and with what it describes as "the highest level" of the EIS - a coded way of saying it will not discuss matters with FELA leaders in the college.

A statement from the college continued: "In addition, the board resolved to accept the tribunal chairman's invitation to return to the tribunal to discuss the practicability of reinstatement, given the nature of the original allegations and related matters."

Mr O'Donovan was fired over remarks made in a corridor exchange with a member of the college's board of management which the college described as "intimidatory, threatening and confrontational".

The management denied he had been sacked for his union activities, but the tribunal ruled that Mr O'Donovan's campaign against a reorganisation of posts at the college had clouded the management's judgment of him to such an extent that it exaggerated the evidence against him, made "mountains out of molehills" and dismissed him.

Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, said the tribunal's verdict was "as comprehensive an indictment of the employer as I have seen in 16 years as a full-time official".

An EIS branch official at the college, who did not want to be named, accused the board of continuing to act improperly. "The chair of the board and the chair of the appeals committee were closely involved in the unfair dismissal of Jim O'Donovan. They have a conflict of interests and should not have taken part in formulating the board's response to the tribunal's decision."

The FELA's annual conference in March voted overwhelmingly for the EIS nationally "to fund any action necessary to ensure that reinstatement takes place as soon as possible".

The tribunal gave the college four weeks to reinstate Mr O'Donovan, a deadline that passed a fortnight ago.

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