Corridor spat led to sack

27th June 2003 at 01:00
THE bizarre circumstances surrounding the sacking from his college post of the Educational Insti-tute of Scotland's national further education president were finally aired publicly at an employment tribunal in Glasgow last week. The hearing has now been adjourned until August 25.

Jim O'Donovan, president of the EIS's College Lecturers' Association, claims he was unfairly sacked from his job as a computing lecturer at Glasgow's Central College of Commerce because of his union involvement. The college denies his dismissal had anything to do with his CLA activities.

Peter Duncan, the college's principal, told the tribunal that Mr O'Donovan had approached Charles Boyce, a member of the board of management, in the corridor as he was talking to two lecturers and commented: " 'Are these the two ladies you wish to get the sack'?, or words to that effect."

Mr Duncan said: "I came to the view this was totally inappropriate. It had been designed to make Charles Boyce feel uncomfortable. It was not an appropriate thing to do, particularly as Charles Boyce was a member of the support staff."

Mr Duncan said Mr O'Donovan's behaviour was "intimidatory" and amounted to harassment. Mr Boyce felt the remarks were confrontational and threatening, even though the two lecturers and Mr O'Donovan did not.

The college argues that Mr O'Donovan's conduct was intended to be "intimidatory, threatening and confrontational". But Mr Boyce said he did not consider Mr O'Donovan was aggressive.

Mr Duncan added: "If someone like Jim was to pass these comments in a more private forum then it would have been not necessarily acceptable but not as intimidatory as doing so in front of two senior lecturers who, as Jim knew, were feeling very anxious about their positions in the pending restructuring."

The tribunal heard the remark was made against a background of a restructuring exercise to achieve financial savings which meant possible redundancies. Mr Duncan said Mr O'Donovan was trying to belittle Mr Boyce.

"It wasn't a trade union activity in my view," he said.

Mr Boyce, who was student services co-ordinator but is no longer employed at the college, then sent a letter of complaint to the principal. Mr O'Donovan denies the college's claim that he circulated copies of Mr Boyce's letter to anybody other than his union representative. Mr Boyce was later the victim of an attempted assault in a Glasgow restaurant.

Mr O'Donovan was subsequently sacked for gross misconduct. Matters escalated and a newsletter entitled News of the Screwballs, a parody of an official college publication, was circulated anonymously, which included a spoof report by "Charlie Dunce".

Mr Duncan said this was a "vicious document" written in the style of a police report. The tribunal heard that Mr Boyce was a former policeman.

Mr O'Donovan claims he has been unable to obtain another job since his sacking as a result of damage to his reputation. He wants the tribunal to order his reinstatement.

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