Lecturers who oppose deal face pay cuts

 

MORE THAN 2,000 university lecturers face pay cuts unless they sign up to the Croke Park agreement. The Department of Education has signalled its intention to press ahead with pay cuts in an effective ultimatum to members of the Irish Federation of University Teachers who continue to oppose the agreement.

At a meeting of the Croke Park Implementation Group earlier this week, the department said federation members could no longer be given the “protection” provided by the Croke Park deal unless they moved quickly to endorse it.

It is expected to confirm this move formally within weeks.

The department’s threat opens up the possibility of a two-tier pay structure in colleges with differing academic contracts for federation and non-federation members.

While the federation has 2,000 members, many lecturers are represented by unions who have backed the Croke Park deal. For example, it has no members in University of Limerick or in DCU.

The Croke Park deal provides for no pay cuts and no forced redundancies until 2014 in return for additional productivity and modernisation measures.

Sources say the Department of Education has lost patience with the federation. It is also under pressure from unions who have accepted the deal to take firm action.

The ultimatum is the latest example of its “get tough” approach on the Croke Park deal. Last year it warned lecturers in the institute of technology sector they faced redundancy unless the Teachers Union of Ireland signed up.

Federation members and two teaching unions (the TUI and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland) voted decisively against the deal last year. However, the ASTI backed it in a reballot last month and the TUI executive is expected to back a reballot when it meets today.

The federation has still to clarify its position. It is strongly opposed to changes in work practices proposed in the Croke Park deal, labelling them as “outrageous”.

In recent weeks, the seven universities have been finalising implementation plans for the Croke Park deal, under which academics must clarify how their working hours are divided between teaching, research and other duties.

At NUI Galway, the draft plan proposes a longer working year, student evaluation of staff and changes to academic freedom.

Last month, Mike Jennings, general secretary of the federation, said: “These [NUIG] proposals would destroy the whole concept of a university . . . they are so bad that I really wonder if the university authorities at the highest level are even aware of the document because, if by some miracle [the federation] were to agree to them, it would no longer be a university as understood in any country in the world.”