Siptu calls for external audit of equality at NUI Galway

Women passed over for promotion challenge college; one has already got back pay to 2009

NUI Galway: staff in administration, catering, cleaning and other areas were  represented at the  meeting hosted by NUIG academics affiliated to Siptu

NUI Galway: staff in administration, catering, cleaning and other areas were represented at the meeting hosted by NUIG academics affiliated to Siptu


Trade union Siptu has called for an external audit of “all aspects” of equality at NUI Galway (NUIG) by independent experts.

The audit should enable staff to give evidence of inequality, according to a motion carried unanimously at an emergency meeting of Siptu’s academic section at NUIG on Thursday.

The motion calls for the university to use the audit findings to “eliminate all facets of structural discrimination” in the university.

It also requests Siptu be involved in checking who will be on the external expert body “to assure staff of its independence”.

Staff in administration, catering, cleaning and other areas of the college were represented at the lunchtime meeting hosted by NUIG academics affiliated to Siptu.

The motion says pressure for additional administrative, teaching and research work have made an acceptable work-life balance “increasingly difficult or impossible” and this affects all staff, regardless of gender.

It says the Minister for Education should be lobbied to drive change and implement an equalities agenda across the sector.

“There is a concern that action should happen soon, with a report before summer and a resolution before the next academic year,” said Maggie Ronayne, Siptu academic section stewards committee spokeswoman , after the meeting.

“People spoke about inequality being pervasive, and they felt undermined, undervalued and demoralised by the cumulative effects experienced on a daily basis,”she said.

“Male colleagues present spoke in support of the motion and spoke of the effects of the performance culture on their family lives,”she said.

NUIG has already promised a task force, led by an “external, independent and appropriately experienced chair”, to review the college’s existing policies and procedures on gender equality and to make recommendations.

This follows the recent Equality Tribunal ruling in favour of scientist Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, which directed that she be awarded €70,000.

NUIG was also ordered to promote Dr Sheehy Skeffington, recently retired, to senior lecturer from July 2009 and to pay her the full salary difference.

However, NUIG is appealing an €81,000 award which the Equality Tribunal directed that it pay lecturer Mary Dempsey last summer, after it found that she was discriminated against by the university on the grounds of gender, family status and disability.

Tributes were paid at the Siptu meeting to Dr Sheehy Skeffington and Ms Dempsey for the courage shown in taking their cases, and the motion calls for their tribunal ruling recommendations to be implemented.

Dr Sheehy Skeffington has promised to use the €70,000 to help other female academics, also passed over for promotion in 2009 and again this year, who recently began legal proceedings against the university.

Late last month NUIG’s governing authority said it was accepting a recommendation to promote three additional staff members as a result of a number of “scoring errors” in the 2014 senior-lecturer promotion round.

NUIG said it was also seeking an equality review of the “entire higher education sector” by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC).

Siptu says it has established a new sub-committee to address equality issues at the university.

The committee points out that women academics in NUIG are not alone in facing discrimination and that “actively and concretely addressing this issue is of concern to all staff regardless of gender”.