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Ulster University management failed to consult and actively misled trade union, industrial tribunal finds.

December 5, 2017

The University and College Union (UCU) has won an industrial tribunal case against Ulster University Management over its failure to consult on redundancies. Employees who were made redundant have been awarded a ‘protective award’ of 90 days’ salary, the highest award allowed for in such cases.

The ruling refers to ‘a very serious failure to consult at all warranting the full protective award’. It further finds the failure to consult to be ‘deliberate […] in that management wanted to keep the Trade Union side in the dark’, and that ‘the Trade Union had been actively misled by Mr [Ronnie] Magee [HR manager at the time] in relation to the advanced nature of the decision-making process’. It also ‘find[s] it significant that […] the Press had more details at earlier stages about course closures than the Trade Union had.’

Employment law states that employers, when embarking upon a potential redundancy situation, must consult recognised trade unions with the aim of reaching agreement on ways to avoid redundancies and mitigate their effects.

Ulster University management made unilateral decisions to close specific courses and research areas and targeted staff within those for redundancy. The ‘voluntary severance package’ was only offered to targeted staff, and not to other staff who would have been prepared to leave. By the time UCU were informed of management’s ‘proposals’, courses had already been removed from marketing materials and from the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), so redundancies in those areas were a fait accompli.

Katharine Clarke, the UCU Northern Ireland Official said, “The Tribunal’s decision has vindicated everything the UCU had been saying about the University’s redundancy process. Our members did not volunteer for severance they were told take an enhanced package or be dismissed with a reduced payment. We are glad the Tribunal agreed with us that this was putting a gun to our members’ heads. Serious work now has to be done to repair industrial relations after the ruling found the University management actively misled us about decisions they took behind our back. The UCU now calls upon the University to pay the 90 day salary compensation payment as a matter of urgency.”

Tracy Irwin, UCU at Ulster branch chair, said, “Finally Ulster University management has been held to account for disrespectfully and arrogantly riding roughshod over their employees’ rights. We sincerely hope that they will take time to reflect on the gravity of this result and begin to work with us with the transparency, respect, and collegiality we and our members deserve.

“UCU is delighted that the highest possible compensation has been awarded to our members, recognising the injustice that was done to them.

“The victory is tinged with sadness and frustration, however, because these talented and dedicated colleagues should never have been forced to leave their jobs, and UCU should not have been forced to take long, arduous and stressful legal recourse to hold our management to account. Good managers work in partnership with their staff and trade union representatives, not do everything in their power to deny them a voice.

“UCU trusts that we will be fully consulted on all future University developments involving our members, and hopes that this tribunal result will be a long awaited turning point towards good industrial relations at the University.”


Reflections on the pensions ballot from Mike Otsuka

October 18, 2017

USS MEMBERS: If you haven’t already done so, please vote YES to industrial action on the e-ballot that closes on Wednesday, for the reasons I mention on the slide I’ve reproduced here.

miko otsuka

Here is a link to a blog post on Medium, which goes into more details about what I think it’s worth going on strike to achieve, and provides a link to my full set of slides.

September 29, 2017

Paddy Nixon makes cuts plans, but there’s money for managers


Yet again UCU at Ulster hears of potential cuts to the university from the media. In Monday’s interview with the Irish News, VC Paddy Nixon says UU is “planning for budget cuts” of between 2 and 12 per cent. He has not said a word to UCU representatives about this.

UCU is not naïve: whilst we consistently and robustly challenge budget cuts to higher education, we recognise that some level of cut is likely. What is crucial is that Ulster University management consults with us about how to deal with it; not just because we want them to, but because employment legislation and best practice calls upon them to do so.

Ironically, Paddy Nixon and his increased numbers of colleagues are making these plans during a period when large amounts of money are repeatedly being made available to recruit and pay three figure salaries to an ever-fattening senior management layer, the third fattest in the UK according to the Times Higher Education Pay Survey 2017. Nixon himself earns £260,333 and enjoyed a healthy 4% pay rise from 2015 to 2016.

Increased student fees are the headline issue of the Irish News article. Fees are not the answer to educating a society during austerity; anyone who works with students on a day to day basis knows that.

Universities exist to educate and provide research to enable a society to thrive. The rational approach, then, is that those who do and support the educating and the research must not be cut. Especially not in a university that already has one of the worst student staff ratios in the UK according to the Sunday Times ‘Good University Guide’.

UCU thinks it should be perfectly clear to Paddy Nixon how any cut to Ulster University’s budget should be dealt with. At the very least he should talk to us.


Paddy Nixon’s interview with the Irish News

UCU Ulster’s response




Belfast Telegraph highlights ‘outrageous salaries’ of Ulster University management

July 13, 2017

BT pay story

Read the full article here

Staff on maternity leave have webpages removed by University

July 11, 2017

Several members recently contacted the UCU Ulster branch to say that their webpages had been taken down while on maternity leave. If you have a colleague currently on maternity leave, please check to see that their webpage is still live. We need your help, as it is often difficult to contact people on leave.

While the reasons for the removal of the webpages are unclear, it raises a range of issues about the invisibility of women in the workplace while on leave they are entitled to take. Women already experience disadvantages in the academic workplace as a result of taking maternity leave, and childcare reduces opportunities for professional exposure at conferences and events. Webpages are therefore a crucial way that women in academia maintain their professional visibility.

If you find a page is missing, please let us (and the affected person) know, and we will ask the University to restore it urgently. If you know of a webpage that has been removed while the person affected is on maternity leave, please contact the Equality Officer at

Senior managers at Ulster University second highest paid in the UK in a year of mass lecturer redundancies.

July 10, 2017

Senior managers at Ulster University are the second highest paid in the UK, according to the Times Higher Education Pay Survey 2017. Of the 162 universities in the UK, only King’s College London pays its senior managers more than Ulster. The recently published figures for 2015-16 list Ulster University’s ‘managers, directors and senior officials’ as receiving an average salary of £89,414, more than one and a half times the UK average, and almost exactly twice as much as the average salary of a lecturer at Ulster.

The University and College Union (UCU) branch president, Tracy Irwin, said, ‘A university should exist to educate and enable our young people and provide ground-breaking research. These outrageous figures illustrate the increasing shift in Ulster University’s resources towards an inflated managerial level that seeks to run our university like a business.

‘Our senior management should be ashamed of themselves. These figures are from a year when they made unnecessary cuts that that saw over 140 of our lecturer colleagues lose their jobs. At the same time our management were being paid on average twice as much as a lecturer, and our Vice Chancellor was putting in place an extra layer of senior managers’.

The figures also show significant gender pay gaps for all categories of staff, most notably a gap of 9.7% in the non-professorial senior academic category. Tracy Irwin continued: ‘Ulster University management do a lot of talking about commitment to Athena SWAN, a body that recognises and celebrates good employment practice for women working higher education and research, yet they stand over blatant inequity in pay. Our management have a lot of work to do if they are to truly value our female colleagues.’

Reminder: UCU AGM & Elections Wed 28 June

June 19, 2017
The AGM for the Ulster UCU local association will take place on Wednesday 28th June at 1pm.
It will be videoconferenced across all 4 campuses; the list of rooms is below.
We hope to see as many members there as possible.
Jordanstown 7C03
Coleraine J813c
Belfast BA-02-003
Magee MC114