With many staff on UCC’s main campus doing work directly comparable to his, Donal O’Sullivan expected a recent evaluation of his job at Tyndall National Institute to see him earn a pay rise of 10% to 15%.
Instead of being moved into the same €50,000 to €60,000 pay range as expected, the manager of Tyndall’s mechanical workshop was told he would be put on an administrative grade that pays about €20,000 less than his current pay.
Although no staff at Tyndall will have their pay cut as a result of the job evaluation exercise, the inability of unions at the research centre and UCC management to agree how disputed outcomes can be appealed led Donal and colleagues to return to strike action over the last week.
It is the second phase of strikes by almost 200 staff at Tyndall in just over a year, in relation to a claim for pay parity with UCC colleagues initiated five years ago this month. They closed the world-renowned institution last Friday, yesterday, and will do so again today, with the possibility of picketing being extended to UCC’s main campus next week.
“I was stunned when the evaluation report came out, I was interviewed and gave a full description of what I do and the comparator technical grades in UCC’s mechanical workshops,” said Donal on the picket line yesterday.
He joined Tyndall after previous work as a toolmaker in industry in 2008, the same year salaries there were frozen. Staff have still been subject to pay cuts imposed on all public servants, who have continued to receive salary increments in the meantime.
“I enjoy the job, there’s huge diversity, I make a lot of things from plastic, metal, copper, or brass for researchers, a lot of what I do goes into Tyndall’s development of microneedles or things like that. But they want to put me into a job description where I can make no advancement because I have no administration qualifications,” he said.
Donal was joined on the picket by fellow Siptu members and colleagues in the Irish Federation of University Teachers, whose UCC branch secretary, Eoin Sheehan, said unions are not trying to withdraw from the agreed process.
“There’s no agreement on terms of reference under which appeals would operate; that’s what the dispute boils down to now,” he said.
The college has said any individual can appeal their job evaluation but union concerns were aired in recent months at the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court, which could not facilitate agreement.
Of 182 staff evaluated by external consultants, unions say just two were deemed to meet academic status — despite many teaching and supervising postgraduate students. Only four staff of the institution with more than 60 technical labs were aligned to technical staff, all the rest being matched to UCC administrative grades.
“If the college is satisfied that the job evaluation report stands up to scrutiny, it should have no objection to a robust independent appeal system,” said Mr Sheehan.
Meanwhile, UCC’s application for an injunction to prevent pickets at the main campus next week will be heard in the High Court tomorrow. Its legal representatives told the court on Tuesday that staff of the university were not balloted, so pickets on entrances to the main campus are not part of a valid trade dispute.
The unions say staff on the main campus have not been called on to strike and management have caused unnecessary uncertainty by suggesting exam students could be disrupted.
It is likely that UCC staff would be able to work on Wednesday without passing pickets, as they will be placed on just six of the college’s many entrances.
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