THE details of the case against the leading union figure who was demoted from his post at Motherwell College began to emerge last week at a tribunal hearing held in Glasgow.
Douglas Nicol, the branch convener of the Educational Institute of Scotland at the college, claims he was unfairly demoted because of his trade union activities. The case, together with that of Jim O'Donovan, the former EIS secretary at Glasgow's Central College of Commerce, sacked for alleged bullying and harassment, has since become a union cause cele```bre.
Mr Nicol has taken the college to an employment tribunal claiming he was discriminated against when he was demoted from senior lecturer to lecturer.
The tribunal heard Mr Nicol, a lecturer at the college for 26 years, was accused of "wilfully disregarding his duties" after he was timetabled to take a group of hospitality students but was found to be dealing with other duties instead.
He was disciplined and demoted from his pound;30,000-a-year post as senior lecturer to lecturer, which meant he earned pound;3,000 a year less. The demotion will also affect his future pension entitlement.
The tribunal heard that at the start of the new academic year, 38 students were registered in the class and this was considered too large. So it was split into two groups, with Mr Nicol taking one for a Friday communications studies class.
But later, Mr Nicol was discovered sitting in a class on his own without students, something he had been doing for several weeks.
Lorna Smith, core curriculum manager at the college and Mr Nicol's line manager, found out the class had never been split as the numbers had dwindled to between 11 and 17 students. There had never been as many as 38.
She then submitted a report to the college's director of human resources recommending that Mr Nicol had committed gross misconduct by not following a direct instruction. "He had made wasteful use of college resources and had made a decision without informing myself which was conflicting with a management instruction," Miss Smith said.
She described her working relationship with Mr Nicol as professional but "tense and difficult".
Miss Smith said she did not trust him enough to prepare timetables as he did not look critically at class numbers and resources. She agreed it was a possibility he felt teaching was compromised when there were too many students in one class.
She also felt he was unsupportive of his staff when a new five core skill initiative was introduced, designed to ensure the employability of all students. At a meeting she said: "He presented me with 27 negative points as to why this initiative would not work and was educationally unsound."
The tribunal heard earlier industrial relations were not good at the college. But Miss Smith told the tribunal they had always been very good. She was aware of Mr Nicol's union involvement and had previously granted him time off to deal with his EIS duties.
The tribunal's decision will be announced later.