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TUI members vote in favour of industrial action

Kilkenny Unions
Published by in TUI ·
Tags: TUITeachersStrikeIndustrialActionKilkenny
The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) today announced that its members in Institutes of Technology have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action, over grave concerns around significant aspects of the Technological Universities Bill.

Members voted by a margin of 85% to take industrial action.

TUI members in the Institutes of Technology took a day’s strike action on February 3rd over a number of additional crisis issues within their sector. The union represents 4,000 lecturers and researchers in the sector.

Speaking this morning, TUI President Gerry Quinn said:

‘The Technological Universities Bill contains significant threats to the Institute of Technology sector, its regional provision and to the working conditions of academic staff. In recent weeks, TUI members were balloted on engagement in a campaign of industrial action over deep concerns related to mergers of Institutes of Technology and the serious implications of such mergers.’

‘As a result of this ballot, we now have a strong mandate for industrial action from our members in order to tackle these dangers and to secure a negotiated, national resolution of these key issues. The union will decide on how best to utilise this mandate in the near future.’

‘We urge the Department of Education and Skills and the Higher Education Authority to engage with us to seek a sustainable and manageable resolution to these grave concerns.’

Requirement to merge more related to cost-saving than to academic considerations

‘We believe that the requirement that Institutes of Technology must merge before they can apply for Technological University status is more related to cost-saving than to any academic considerations based on the particular missions, values and ethos of particular institutes. The exact rationale for this requirement has never been clearly established and it must be removed from the Bill.’

‘There are grave and justified concerns among academic staff over funding. In addition, the regional mission, including multiple programmes, which is central to the Institute of Technology ethos must be retained.’

Colossal change in an era of cutbacks

‘We remain critically concerned about the potential consequences of this Bill given the current crisis of underfunding, understaffing and precarious employment in the institutes.’

‘Between 2008 and 2015, funding for the sector was cut by a massive 35%, or €190m. Over the same time period, lecturer numbers fell by 9.5% (535) while student numbers rose by a staggering 32% (21,411).’

‘As a result, many institutes are struggling to tread water. The intention to effect such huge additional change without appropriate resourcing in an era of hugely damaging cutbacks to the sector is, at best, ill-advised.’

Protection of mission

‘Institutes have a proven track record of excellence in programme development and content as well as a significant commitment to regional equality and equity of access. They provide multiple programmes from National Framework of Qualifications Level 6 (Apprenticeship) to Level 10 (Doctorates/PhDs). The mission of the sector is distinct, with a strong focus on meeting local and regional needs. A rationalisation agenda will lead to a dramatic reduction in regional provision of programmes.’

Risk of geographic inequity

‘There are also serious, justified concerns over the risk of a geographic inequity in respect of access to higher education.’

‘Towns and communities with an existing institute that is being coerced by the requirement to merge have real cause to worry. As matters stand, an invaluable part of the local economy may effectively be down-graded or asset-stripped.’

Additional concerns

‘Throughout this whole process, there has, in some institutes, been a consistent failure to consult properly with the real experts - the academic staff.’

‘The Bill is excessively focused on the concerns of business and enterprise. It would be a grave mistake to prioritise the short-term needs of employers over the long-term needs of students and society. An appropriate balance is required.’

‘We are also gravely concerned about the threats posed by the Bill to national collective bargaining and the terms and conditions of our members.’

‘Other concerns within the Bill include the weakening of staff and local representation on Governing Bodies and the weakening of the academic voice.’

Changes to the Bill a necessity

‘There were 123 amendments proposed to the Bill, which demonstrates the level of concern around a range of key issues. Addressing these valid concerns is a necessity in the interests of maintaining and enhancing the quality of educational provision by the institutes and of protecting the educational, economic, cultural and social infrastructure in the regions that they serve.’

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