This paper outlines proposals for an early and effective strategy for addressing disputes and disagreements which arise within and outwith the University community.

It puts forward the factors to be considered, the ways in which mediation would support the University's strategic aims and objectives through the growth of its skills and training and provides a terms of reference for approval. It does not outline what mediation is or how it works and further information can be provided if required. This paper will be submitted to the May 2008 meeting of the Human Resources Committee for its approval.

Environment

Internal

There are growing number of disputes raised within the University both by students and staff and a recognised need for skilled early intervention and resolution.

Over recent years there have been increased instances of litigation brought by students and Employment Tribunal claims brought by staff.

The University's modernisation agenda would be supported by an early dispute resolution process.

External

A growing trend is evident where external business organisations are looking to alternative dispute resolution methods and particularly towards mediation as a viable, cost effective method of resolution capable of producing positive and sustainable results.

Current consultation on the Employment Bill 2007/8 will lead to changes to the Statutory Dispute Resolution procedures in 2009. The consultation relates to different methods of early dispute resolution which will affect discipline and grievance procedures.

Background

In 2006 the University of Dundee hosted a mediation awareness seminar to discuss the potential for and benefits of mediation methods being used within the HE and FE sectors as a whole.

In 2007 a core group comprising academics, managers and administrators undertook a 2 day training event to learn more about the mediation process itself and its application to dealing with difficult workplace issues. During that period a number of workplace disputes have been resolved either through mediation or the use of mediation methods themselves.

A focus group was formed to explore how that facility may be further developed within Colleges/Schools and Student and Academic Support Services and how a consensual debate on the commitment to early resolution could be taken forward.

Strategic Framework to 2012

The further development of mediation provision would help support the University's aims and objectives as stated in the Strategic Framework document.

Aim 2; Objective 2.3: Provide excellent support services, accommodation options, social facilities and a great environment to students in a responsive manner.

Aim 3; Objective 3.2: Bring forward proposals to satisfy the needs of postgraduate and mature students in general, particularly for study, social and living accommodation.

Aim 4; Objective 4.3: Develop a coherent approach to partnerships and alliances and to our international activities in general.

Aim 5; We have an important synergistic relationship with NHS Tayside, the major employer in the City; strong working relationships with Scottish Enterprise Tayside and the City Council; and good educational links with the Universities of Abertay Dundee and St Andrews, and the FE colleges in Perth, Angus, Fife and Dundee.

Aim 6; Further development is needed to improve the responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness of these [student and academic support] services. Responding to the new University structure, a devolved yet disciplined approach to delivery based on transparency and a shared service ethos is required.

It is recognised that there is a potential for disagreements and disputes to arise in the pursuit of all or any of these aims and that the use of mediation is a valued and proven tool to achieving effective and long term solutions where these arise and where it is important that a continuing business or workplace relationship has to carry on or resume.

Objectives

Short-term Objectives (2008/9)

  • To resolve disputes at an early stage and reach more satisfactory outcomes.
  • To minimise the cost involved in managing disputes viz: opportunity cost involved in management time dedicated to dealing with disputes.
  • the cost of litigation
  • the cost of Employment Tribunals
  • To enhance management skills by using an innovative approach across the range of disciplines and staff categories in the University.
  • To disseminate best practice in a modern and diverse workplace 

Medium-term Objectives (2009/12)

  • To forward plan to set in place mediation skills and training facility for the University in advance of the expected legislative requirement in 2009.
  • To train and develop a credible, professional and high quality mediation facility at the University.
  • To lead the sector in Scotland by developing best practice in a range of dispute resolution methods.
  • To create a Centre of Excellence at Dundee.
  • To undertake a Feasibility Study into the creation of a Mediation Panel (Oxford University model). 

Beyond 2012

  • To explore the potential for and, if appropriate, develop academic modules/programme in mediation.

Approach

  • To develop a Mediation Charter and identify relevant existing policies (e.g. Dignity at Work and Study) to embed the principles of the Charter.
  • To identify and train 4 mediators prior to 1 August 2009.
  • To create a website, hosted by Academic Affairs, linked to other University websites to provide self-help mechanisms along with anonymous case studies.
  • To raise awareness of Mediation Charter and website using a variety of communication methods.
  • To develop an evaluation questionnaire to assess performance and satisfaction.
  • To collaborate with other Institutions to mutual benefit.
  • To develop ongoing training programmes for mediators to develop and disseminate knowledge and skills.

Assumption

That the University will wish to have in place a mediation facility which offers alternative dispute resolution methods in place for 2009.

Constraints

For budget year 2008/9 financial support will be required for initial training costs. This is estimated to be less than 10K.

The cost of the development work required on the other tasks stated in Approach are capable of being absorbed by existing resources.

As the mediation facility will support primarily the strategic aims and objectives of Student Services and Human Resources these Directorates may wish to make a financial contribution.

Implementation

The following edr group has been established to take forward the workload outlined in the above "Approach".

  • Mrs Fiona O'Donnell, Academic Affairs (Convener)
  • Mrs Maggie Davidson, Human Resources
  • Dr Lesley McLellan, Surgery & Oncology
  • Professor Ann Burchell, Maternal & Child Health Sciences
  • Dr Geoffrey Wallace, School of Education, Social Work & Community Education
  • Ms Ellie Douglas, Student Services
  • Mrs Gillian Jones, Human Resources
  • Ms Vivienne White, Secretary, School of Engineering, Physics & Mathematics
  • Ms Marion Sporing (DUCU)
  • Ms Rhona Clarke (Secretary, UNISON)
  • Mr David Bleiman (UCU)
  • Mr Gary Hannan (Secretary, UNITE)
  • Mrs Sharon Sweeney (UNISON)
  • Mr David Ritchie (UNITE)
  • Ms Rimple Palana, DUSA Vice President, Student Welfare

External Member: Mr Ewan Malcolm, Director of the Scottish Mediation Network

Mrs Fiona ODonnell is the co-ordinator of the edr facilitators.

Reporting Lines

edr group to report to the appropriate University committees, as required.

Timescales

  • Short term objectives to be achieved by 1 August 2008 (except training).
  • Training of mediators to be completed by 1 August 2009.
  • Medium - term objectives to be achieved during the lifecycle of the Strategic Framework document.

Measurement of Success

Success will be measured by feedback of participants in mediation to assess satisfaction with facility and benefits of outcomes.