Court ruling on UCC pickets

University College Cork has secured a High Court injunction preventing planned pickets at some entrances to the college’s main campus tomorrow by employees of Tyndall National Institute in a dispute over pay.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan said he was satisfied to grant an injunction against Siptu and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) over what the college claims are proposals to extend the picketing. UCC claims the proposed action was an escalation of the dispute that would cause “significant disruption”, particularly for students sitting exams.

Richard Kean, for Siptu, said given “the ramifications of the judgment”, his client may appeal the decision.

The union had argued that it was entitled to proceed with its plan to picket six of the 12 entrances at the campus. It said that UCC’s claim in relation to exams being effected was “alarmist”.

IFUT did not participate in the proceedings but said last night it will abide by the court decision. Issues about the treatment of researchers at Tyndall will now be referred back to its members.

“This matter will not be resolved by UCC’s recourse to spending hundreds of thousands of euro on legal fees, while refusing to engage meaningfully to resolve inequality issues affecting researchers,” said union general secretary Mike Jennings.

A spokesperson for UCC said the college had told students it would take all necessary steps to protect exams.

Mr Justice Gilligan said the central issue was whether members of the unions working at UCC’s main campus had been called on to engage in the proposed industrial action. His decision was influenced by terminology used on the defendants’ behalf in a communication to UCC management on April 23.

It said the unions were asking “all of our members to lend their support to the Tyndall staff” when they would be picketing. Nowhere in the correspondence was it indicated the action was not to hamper activities within the main campus, the judge said. He noted a further communication from the defendants on May 1 said they advised members the dispute involved Tyndall workers only, and all other members were requested to attend work as normal. It added the action was not designed to interfere with exams.

The judge said following the clarification he found it “difficult to understand the necessity to proceed ahead with the placing of pickets” on a day when students, who were probably under enough pressure without having to be concerned with pickets, were sitting exams.

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