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UCD ordered to pay €15,000 to sack a manager who acquired the right to a permanent position when his contract ended

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UCD was ordered to pay €15,000 in compensation for firing a manager at the end of a contract term when she had acquired the right to a permanent position.

The Workplace Relations Commission has upheld a complaint made by Dorota Bruce against her previous employer, University College Dublin, under Section 14 of the Workers Protection (Temporary Work) Act 2003.

Siptu organizer Shonagh Byrne, who acted for Ms Bruce, said her client had worked for UCD since 2016 and served four years as the external relations officer at the university’s Applied Language Center until July 22, 2020.

She said Ms Bruce was initially given an 11-month contract, followed by a three-month contract and finally a third fixed-term contract of three years from October 2017.

During the third contract in June 2019, Ms Bruce requested information from UCD’s human resources department regarding her eligibility for a permanent contract and continued to seek updates through July 2020, Ms Byrne said, as the college said her tenure would end at the end of the Three-year contract in October 2020.

Ms Bruce then wrote back to say she believed she was entitled to a permanent contract, Ms Byrne said – and by that time the outside English program she was working on and other areas of her employment had “increased in volume”. .

However, on August 6, the interim manager told her that the situation “did not look promising” as the two areas that Ms Bruce oversaw were “facing financial difficulties,” Ms Byrne said.

Ms Bruce met the interim director that same day and he informed her that the contract would not be renewed, after which she lodged a complaint with the university.

UCD claimed the temporary contracts met a “legitimate objective” of providing “effective and efficient administrative and support services” working in “a team in an international environment,” Ms Byrne said.

It wrote to Ms Byrne on August 21, 2020 to say that her employment was “conditional” and that “a review of local staffing needs has regrettably concluded that the requirements for the role with an end date of October 1, 2020 to be set”.

The letter stated that UCD’s position was that the “objective reasons” for a fixed-term contract were valid and Ms Bruce was “not entitled” to a permanent contract.

Ms Byrne argued that her client did have a “permanent need” for UCD and her duties existed both before taking up the post and after her contract ended.

“The actual reason for the termination of the complainant’s employment was a cost-saving measure,” she said, adding that the failure to secure Ms Bruce a permanent contract was “a clear and definite breach of applicable legislation”.

Ms Bruce said her client wanted to be reinstated.

Gavan Stanley, manager of UCD employee relations, appeared for the university.

He said the “objective justification” in Ms Bruce’s final contract “consistent with the three-year business plan for the entity”.

The college conducted a review of the unit’s financial viability and concluded that it “does not see the market opportunity of teaching English to international students.”

“It was decided to disband the entity and put it through an orderly liquidation,” he said, “which coincided with the end of [Ms Bruce’s] contract – and that she received a severance package.”

UCD has the right to set its staffing structures and denied that the end of Ms Bruce’s contract was “motivated by cost-cutting concerns,” he said.

He also denied that the university “ignored” Ms Bruce’s inquiries or subjected her to “unreasonable waits to resolve this matter”.

In a decision released today, WRC referee Brian Dolan wrote it was “difficult to see” how the objective reasons put forward by UCD would justify a fixed-term contract and said it was clear there was only a “brief description” of Ms Bruce’s duties.

He ruled on the objective reasons related to a “firm and permanent” need for UCD, even if a review and transformation of the Center for Applied Language were to take place.

“It is hard to imagine that following such a review and transformation, the unit would not require an ‘effective and efficient administration and support service’ and a staff member who ‘works as part of a team in an international environment,'” wrote Mr. Dolan.

He also ruled that UCD could not invoke the viability report as an objective reason for entering into a fixed-term contract either, as the review process began after the factual justification was included in Ms Bruce’s contract.

Mr. Dolan wrote that if staffing levels had to be reduced to meet economic goals, the university was required to apply the “minimum necessary unfavorable treatment” – and UCD could not be said to have done so in this case.

He ruled that Ms Bruce’s contract was open-ended and that UCD broke the law by giving him a fixed term.

Mr Dolan accepted UCD’s evidence that the unit was “running out of staff or students” and that reinstatement was not an option – instead awarding Ms Bruce €15,000 in compensation.

https://www.independent.ie/news/ucd-ordered-to-pay-15000-for-dismissing-manager-who-had-acquired-right-to-permanent-role-at-end-of-contract-41546433.html UCD ordered to pay €15,000 to sack a manager who acquired the right to a permanent position when his contract ended

Fry Electronics Team

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