Employees at Lund University who are brought before the staff disciplinary board, Pan, have for some time now not been allowed to attend the board when a decision is to be made about dismissal or redundancy on personal grounds. The employee is also not allowed to submit a written statement to respond to the allegations that the committee is to address.
The employer has support in law for this change. But Adam Brenthel, chair of the Saco-S local association at Lund University, is not happy about the new process. “Just because there is support in the law for it does not mean that it is a good idea. Our members expect to be able to defend themselves and meet those who are pass judgment on their continued employment and by extension their academic career,” he tells Universitetsläraren.
What has changed is that an aspect of Lund University’s procedure for cases before the disciplinary board is now being interpreted differently, says Brenthel. Cases concerning different types of disciplinary sanction are regulated by administrative law, which stipulates that the employee has the right to submit a response and the right to be present when the board’s decision is announced. Matters involving dismissal or termination of employment on personal grounds are regulated by labour law. This means that consultation can be requested, as permitted under the Employment Protection Act, Las. There can be a dialogue before the board meets.
“The procedure states that you have the right to be heard and to be present when disciplinary sanctions are imposed,” says Brenthel. “But this new interpretation is that the employee does not have the right to be heard or to be present in cases regarding dismissal or redundancy on personal grounds.”
He says that the change occurred suddenly, in the middle of a change process being handled jointly by the employer and the unions. A number of cases have already been tried under the new system.
“Why should a well-functioning process that had strong legitimacy be changed, and without us being involved?” says Brenthel.
Marie Härstedt, HR director at Lund University, emphasises that the procedure has not changed fundamentally. In her view, the employer and the unions simply have different views on when the employee should be allowed to attend disciplinary board meetings and when not. “However, the matter is still under discussion,” she says.
She also points out that they are in the middle of a change process regarding the staff disciplinary board. They would like, for example, to clarify roles and give greater support to those who work with the staff disciplinary board process.
“If the department or the faculty where the employee works has more competence regarding the various steps, how to structure the work and provide support and how to talk to the union, that improves the quality of the process for the employee as well,” she says.
Mikael Brisslert, a national officer at SULF, sees nothing odd about the employer following the provisions of the Employment Protection Act when it comes to cases of redundancy and dismissal. “The problem at Lund University is that they had a staff disciplinary board process that was accepted by all parties. And now it has suddenly been changed, which undermines the legitimacy of the process,” he says.
There is a greater risk that employees do not understand the decisions that the employer makes in the staff disciplinary board when they are less involved in the process, he says. He believes that this in turn may lead to the union having to pursue more labour law cases in the future.
Marie Härstedt, the HR director, disagrees. The idea of the change is to focus on deliberations before the actual meeting of the staff disciplinary board, she says. “If we can work through some cases with the intentions that actually exist today in the Swedish model and devote time and energy to deliberations, I actually think we can resolve more issues. Perhaps in a better and fairer way than before.”
Adam Brenthel doesn´t know of any other higher education institution that has made similar changes to the staff disciplinary process. “But I am concerned that this approach will spread,” says Brenthel.
Lärosäten: Lunds universitet