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File image of Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris Alamy Stock Photo

Teachers' Union to ballot academic staff at technological universities on industrial action

Minister Simon Harris said it’s his ‘understanding’ that the issue ‘relates to a very small number of managerial posts in our technological universities’.

THE TEACHERS’ UNION of Ireland (TUI) is to ballot members at third level for industrial action, up to and including strike action.

TUI said it will ballot more than 4,600 members in the technological university (TU) sector next week over what it describes as “non-adherence by management to a collective agreement” which concerned the establishment of TUs.

In 2017, TUI members in the sector voted to accept the collective agreement but the union’s leadership now says the Department has “deliberately and consistently” frustrated the proper functioning of industrial relations mechanisms at third level.

The union said the agreement provided for retention of the sector and for prior meaningful communication, consultation and negotiation with the TUI on relevant matters.

It said the deal also specifically provides for a national review of lecturing.

However, TUI president David Waters accused the Department of Further and Higher Education of a “cynical attempt to dismantle the sector” by not adhering to the agreement.

“There must be parity of esteem across the sector and in this regard any regional variations in terms of pay and conditions are unacceptable,” said Waters.

“Our members accepted the 2017 agreement in good faith in a national ballot.

“The TUI is determined that the TU sector will continue to have nationally agreed terms and conditions for all the grades represented by the TUI and for any proposed new grades within the scope of the Union.

“We are therefore balloting our members for industrial action, up to and including strike action over this unacceptable non-adherence to a collective agreement.”

The Department of Further and Higher Education said does not accept it has breached the May 2017 or any other agreement, according to a spokesman.

It said it has engaged consistently with the TUI on the reform of the TU sector through the appropriate forums.

The spokesman added: “The Department has not received any formal notification or explanation of the TUI’s particular concerns, and this is extremely disappointing.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said: “I look forward to them (the TUI) issuing the grounds of their concern to my department in writing, so that we can immediately engage in relation to this matter.”

He added that this is an “important way to engage in industrial relations” and that “engagement with my department would be very helpful”.

Harris said it is his “understanding” that the issue “relates to a very small number of managerial posts in our technological universities”.

-With additional reporting from Diarmuid Pepper

Press Association