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Strikes over pay and conditions to hit a number of third-level institutions

Lecturers in Irish third levels to picket in February, while those in Northern Ireland are in the middle of an eight-day dispute.

University and College Union members on the picket line earlier this week.
University and College Union members on the picket line earlier this week.
Image: Ray Morgan via Shutterstock

IRISH THIRD-LEVEL institutions are to be affected by strikes and other actions over pay and conditions in the coming months.

This comes as lecturers and researchers in 60 universities across the UK and Northern Ireland began an eight day strike on Monday over pensions, pay and conditions. 

Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) will take a day’s strike action in February over pay inequality. In addition to its 12,000 second level teachers, this also affects 4,000 Institute of Technology lecturers and 3,000 adult education teachers. 

Though not as well publicised, entrants into the workforce in third-level are also affected by what the TUI call ‘pay discrimination’. For example, new assistant lecturers earn 3% less than those who joined before 2011. 

TUI members voted by a margin of 92% to 8% to engage in a campaign of industrial action on the issue.

Strikes are ongoing in the UK following reports that pay for university staff has plummeted over the last decade. The University and College Union (UCU) are also disputing changes to pension schemes.

UCU members in Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University will be on the picket line until Wednesday. Students were told by Ulster University that they ‘cannot know with certainty if a class will go ahead or be disrupted’ because of the strike.  

Universities are not being challenged enough over contracts, according to Frank Jones, Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT). It is supportive of the UCU dispute and has asked its members who also lecture in the North to respect the strike. 

Jones added that some universities in Ireland have up to 1,500 people working with no contract of employment despite legislation being in place since 1994 making it a legal obligation. 

“It’s a disgrace because everyone needs a statement of their terms and conditions of employment”, said Jones. “When we become aware of it, we take cases [in the Labour Court] for individuals but there’s not enough members taking cases.”

Lack of contracts and precarious working conditions are just some of the challenges currently facing the third-level sector. IFUT are currently working with a number of other trade unions to highlight the lack of funding in the sector and plan on rolling out campaigns in the coming month.

“The very nature of these short contracts, leads to life decisions being put on hold”, added Jones. “People are not being able to settle down, get mortgages or start a family.”

Academic Uncertainty Investigation 

Do you want to know more about how prevalent precarious contracts are in the third-level sector in Ireland?

The Noteworthy team want to do an in-depth investigation into how universities and institutes of technology are allowed to employ so many researchers and lecturers on these contracts.

They also want to look at the impact that short-term and temporary contracts are having on the sector as a whole.

Here’s how to help support this proposal> 

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Maria Delaney

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