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UCU at Ulster declare a dispute with employer

September 24, 2015

Press release

The University and Colleges Union at Ulster University have this morning declared a dispute with the employer because of a failure to properly consult over collective redundancies.

In a redundancy situation, employers are required to consult meaningfully with the recognised trade unions with a view to reaching agreement on a set of proposals that are fair and equitable. The trade unions must be consulted on avoiding dismissals, reducing the number of dismissals and mitigating the consequences of dismissals.

Ulster University Management has presented its proposals, which include course closures and the loss of significant proportions of staff in targeted areas, as a fait accompli. Immediately after the proposals were announced, rather than enter a period of statutory consultation, courses were removed from the UCAS application system. An unagreed ‘voluntary’ severance scheme was opened to some but not all staff in targeted areas and was done so before the University published its business case to the trade union. UCU does not believe this constitutes meaningful consultation.

The closing date for applications to the voluntary severance scheme time is 30th October 2015. It has been offered to selected staff simultaneous to public announcements of course and departmental closures. Individuals have been placed in an invidious position of either applying for an enhanced package ahead of and parallel to consultation, or risk a compulsory redundancy on materially worse terms. The UCU believes the employer is bullying our members and is doing so with deliberate intention of undermining a meaningful consultation process.

Anthea Irwin, president of the local association of UCU at Ulster, said, ‘UCU are deeply saddened to have been forced into declaring a dispute with the University but we cannot stand by and allow our management to steamroller through a set of proposals that lack rationale, unfairly target colleagues in particular areas, and threaten the breadth of education we offer to our young people.

‘This should be a time of vibrancy and excitement at Ulster, as our students embark upon their new year of studies with talented and dedicated staff who inspire them, support them, and prepare them to make an impact on our society. But all of this is overshadowed by the fact that our management have demonstrated that they do not respect and value us, in the way our students and their future employers do. If they did, they would have worked with us to find a better way to deal with the Stormont budget cuts.

‘UCU have repeatedly asked management to consult meaningfully with us, they have not done so, and we have been forced to declare a dispute as a last resort. It is ironic that at the time the Minister for Employment and Learning is launching his ‘big conversation’ about higher education, Ulster University management refuse to have any meaningful conversation with their employees about how to best protect and nurture that education through difficult times.

‘UCU are ready and waiting to have that conversation, but we can only do so if our management halt their unacceptable process and start again in meaningful consultation with the trade unions.’

Contact: Anthea Irwin a.irwin@ulster.ac.uk 07742889802

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