An association representing counsellors in higher education institutions has rowed in behind staff at Cork Institute of Technology in their dispute with management over the proposed hiring of a counsellor.
The CIT staff objections are based on the qualifications cited in the advert for the position. CIT staff yesterday protested on campus following what local Teacher’s Union of Ireland branch members described as “a further deterioration of industrial relations at CIT”.
The TUI members claim that the qualifications sought for the position within CIT’s student counselling service are below an agreed national standard, and that management at the college refuses to engage in formal grievance procedures to hear their concerns.
Yesterday the Irish Association of University & College Counsellors backed the staff members’ position in the dispute, and said it has written a three-page letter to the president of CIT, the institute’s Human Resources department, and other officials to air their concerns.
John Broderick, chairman of the association, said the body has “serious objections” concerning the details of the advertised post.
“The advertisement’s required qualifications for the student counsellor post were significantly altered from the 2003 agreed qualifications for all student counsellor posts in the IT sector,” Mr Broderick said.
“The specific requirement for a postgraduate qualification was relegated from ‘essential’ to ‘desirable’ as well as deviating from the stated requirements for a postgraduate qualification in ‘clinical, counselling or educational psychology or equivalent’.
“We objected in the most strenuous terms, that a subject taken in the final degree was in any way sufficient for a professional counselling role, and pointed out that this would not be acceptable to any professional counselling accrediting body,” he said.
He said the association also has “grave concerns” that the duties of the post of student counsellor were conflated with the duties of the head of student counselling position.
“This conflation contravenes the practice in the university and indeed the institutes of technology sectors where head of student counsellor roles have been established,” he said.
The TUI said it will ballot members on potential industrial action as a result of the dispute, and said this could lead to possible strike action.
In a statement earlier this week CIT said that the full-time post “will be implemented with the nationally agreed contract”.
“The TUI have been given an assurance that any successful candidate will be fully qualified in accordance with any national agreement on professional counselling requirements,” a statement from the college read.
However, TUI members have questioned why the advertisement for the position does not cite these requirements if the institute is to ensure the successful candidate is qualified to the nationally agreed standards.
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