Cork City Council has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Cllr Ted Tynan motion calling on Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan, or her successor, to suspend the proposed merger and to enter into meaningful talks with trade and student unions at both institutes.
Apart from Cllrs John Sheehan, Tim Brosnan, Tony Fitzgerald, Des Cahill and Joe Kavanagh, who abstained, the 15 other councillors who attended Monday’s council meeting voted in favour of the motion.
Their vote comes ahead of a planned one-day strike by lecturing staff at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) next Wednesday over the issue.
Both CIT and the Institute of Technology Tralee (ITT) are involved in a joint bid to achieve Munster Technological University (MTU) status.
Their governing bodies claim the achievement of MTU status will deliver a broad range of benefits and opportunities, including enhanced study options for students, and career and professional development opportunities for staff.
But the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which represents lecturing staff at the two institutes, has expressed fears that the merger will undermine educational standards.
In a ballot of its members, 92% of CIT lecturers and 84% in ITT voted for industrial action in opposition to the merger, up to and including strike action.
It subsequently lodged a dispute with the Workplace Relations Commission in February 2015 but says there has been little progress since.
In another TUI ballot last month, 92% of Institute of Technology lecturers from across the country voted for industrial action, including strike action.
The TUI said next week’s stoppage at CIT could escalate into longer stoppages and possibly full-scale, protracted strike action unless the situation is resolved by meaningful discussion.
Mr Tynan told Monday’s meeting that it’s clear that there is serious disquiet amongst teachers and research staff at both CIT and ITT about the implications of the merger.
“And there has been insufficient information shared with students and their representatives,” he said.
“The two institutes are of far too much importance to their respective regions to be simply tinkered with, and expenditure on the proposed merger, which could cost at least €7m to complete, is in stark contrast with the serious cutbacks in funding to the two institutes over the last number of years.”