TUI set for strike ballot if college merger goes ahead

A showdown with staff looks increasingly likely at two Munster institutes of technology as a union prepares to ballot lecturers for industrial action if a proposed merger goes ahead.

TUI set for strike ballot if college merger goes ahead

Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) president Brendan Murphy said the plan is to proceed with the process with Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT), despite this week’s approval for the vote by Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) branches at both colleges. They have already lodged a dispute with the Labour Relations Commission about the proposed merger, required for the colleges to make an application to become a technological university (TU).

Mr Murphy told graduating students at CIT’s National Maritime College of Ireland management were delighted with the approval of international experts last December for the Munster Technological University (MTU) proposal to move to the next application stage.

He said the TU status is being pursued to give CIT’s graduates and staff the recognition they deserve, as it would be equal in status to the traditional university but with a distinctive mission and focus. But the plans face opposition from academic staff at both campuses.

Staff say the requirement to merge means if a TU application is unsuccessful, the colleges would be legally tied without any of the benefits of improved status.

“The union is concerned about the risk the forced merger will have on staffing levels, conditions, resources and services.

“If an institute wants to apply for technological university status it should be allowed to without first having to merge with another institute,” said TUI assistant general secretary Aidan Kenny.

Although the union is pressing for the merger requirement to be removed, Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said last week she plans to retain that rule when she publishes law to underpin the creation of technological universities before the summer.

While the joint CIT-ITT submission of last summer proposed finalising the merger in August 2016, the three-member international expert panel suggested in their evaluation that the process be speeded up.

A final application is not likely for at least two years, as a number of strict criteria about staff qualifications and governance structures need to be met before a favourable decision could be received.

An expert panel would be appointed by the Higher Education Authority to assess the application, before a recommendation to the minister for education and government of the day on whether to award TU status.

An application by three institutes of technology in Dublin is closer to being submitted, but plans to have Waterford and Carlow institutes merge.

WIT is also opposed to the merger requirement, believing it stands a better chance of success through an individual application.

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