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Three face redundancy in Irish at UU

August 11, 2016

Today, three of our colleagues in the School of Irish Language and Literature will meet with redundancy panels.

All of them have already been informed that they are ‘provisionally’ on a list of staff whose jobs will be axed.

These meetings take place after UCU has written to the University outlining the union’s objections to these redundancies, stating: ‘The cost savings of these posts is negligible in terms of the overall University budget and the Union believes cost savings can be achieved through natural wastage and other strategies. UCU believe the axing of these posts and the livelihoods of the individuals who hold them is unwarranted and not financially justified.’

We are awaiting a response from University management on this issue.

The process by which our three colleagues in Irish have been earmarked for redundancy has been humiliating and demoralising for them.

Over the summer, staff within the School were forced to compete against one another to keep their jobs and eventually invited to sit before a redundancy panel where they were scored according to how they met certain criteria – like contestants in some tasteless talent contest.

As a consequence of this process Irish looks set to lose its only female colleague. The other two colleagues earmarked to lose their jobs are the School’s only members of staff from designated non-Catholic backgrounds. The two colleagues in question are also the only two members of the school who do not originate from Ireland.

These redundancies, should they be confirmed today, put into question Ulster University’s commitment to equality and diversity – and not for the first time during these cuts.

Although the university claims to have screened for inequality under their Section 75 duties, the outcome of this process demonstrates that they have not taken their obligations as a public authority seriously. UCU has already discovered through Freedom of Information requests that a disproportionate number of staff lost during the most recent cuts were identified as black or minority ethnic.

As Steve Baker, UCU’s vice chair at Ulster said yesterday: This is a terrible blow for the colleagues facing redundancy and a blow for equality and diversity in the university, at a time when both social inclusion and internationalisation are so important in higher education.’

The three job losses in Irish are another awful consequence of a flawed process that began as a so-called voluntary severance scheme last year. There was in truth nothing voluntary about it. The cuts were targeted. The severance package was not open to all. And where it was made available, staff were left feeling vulnerable. Some, no doubt, jumped for fear of being pushed, while colleagues in a number of areas were simply told their courses were closing and put on notice.

The targeted nature of the cuts was emphasised when some colleagues who made ‘expressions of interest’ in redundancy packages were told they could not leave because the university had a ‘strategic interest’ in their area or work.

Management failed to consult with the UCU throughout this process. Had they done so they would have been able to draw upon the considerable expertise and knowledge of staff within the institution, and ways might have been found to mitigate these cuts. Certainly the university wouldn’t be in the ignominious position of undermining its reputation for equality and diversity.

This has been a bruising period for staff at Ulster University and UCU appreciates how stressed, undervalued and demoralised colleagues are feeling. But we would ask you to give your full support to the union. Get involved in the branch activities. Feedback to the committee and union officials about what’s happening in your area. Encourage colleagues who aren’t already members to join.

Get in touch here: Tracy Irwin t.irwin@ulster.ac.uk  or Stephen Baker sj.baker@ulster.ac.uk

Follow UCU@Ulster on Facebook and Twitter @UCU_Ulster

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