The High Court will rule on Monday on University College Cork’s application for an injunction preventing picketing at some entrances to the main campus next week by employees of a research institute.
UCC is seeking the order against Siptu and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) over what the college says are proposals to extend picketing related to a long-running pay dispute at the Tyndall National Institute. The university claims action proposed for Wednesday amounts to escalation of the dispute that would cause “significant disruption not just for staff working at UCC but most importantly students doing exams.”
The application for an injunction was heard by Mr Justice Paul Gilligan and is opposed by Siptu, which said it is entitled to picket six of the 12 entrances at UCC’s main campus. The union says the action will not disrupt examinations, and described UCC’s claims in relation to exams being effected as “alarmist”.
Mr Justice Gilligan reserved his decision, noting the urgency of the matter and saying he would give his ruling on Monday. IFUT did not participate in the hearing but its general secretary, Mike Jennings, was in court.
Tyndall is an information technology research and development institute at UCC operating at a premises one kilometre from the main campus, the court heard.
Mark Connaughton SC, with Tom Mallon BL, for UCC, said it was accepted there was a trade dispute over pay between union members, who are UCC’s employees, at Tyndall which operates at a premises 1km from the main campus. However, placing pickets at the main UCC campus entrances was not part of a valid trade dispute.
Counsel said the action was an attempt “to escalate” the dispute and encourage other members of the unions not to turn up for work. The pickets, counsel added, would result in “widespread industrial action on the campus on the day examinations are due to take place.”
The unions, counsel said, were calling on people not involved in the dispute “to participate in the industrial action.” While a ballot had taken place of union members at Tyndall, there had been no such ballot by members working in the main campus, he said. This was in breach of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 covering secret ballots for industrial action which must be held among all members affected, he said.
Richard Kean SC, with Matthew Jolley BL for Siptu rejected the claims and said union members are legally entitled to picket the entrances at UCC’s main campus. Such rights have been enshrined in the Constitution “from very early times” and UCC’s application for an injunction was “misconceived in law”, it was added.
He said claims examinations would be effected by the picketing was “alarmist”. The picket is designed to “peacefully communicate” to others the union member’s dispute with UCC, counsel said.
Counsel said that Siptu informed its members at UCC not involved in the dispute “to turn up for work as normal” and to pass the picket, counsel said.
It was accepted that Siptu had asked members to support those involved in the industrial dispute but, counsel said, support can be given in many different forms including honking of cars horns, and did not just mean not passing a picket and staying away from work.
Meanwhile, IFUT criticised Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan’s decision not to attend its annual conference today. Mr Jennings said it may have been based on a mistaken belief the industrial action posed a threat to the holding of exams.
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