Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) is yet to pay awards to two female staff members who successfully brought cases to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on back wages, following delays in their progression from assistant lecturer to lecturer. This has lead staff to pursue industrial action in support of the two women.
The WIT branch of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has condemned what it terms WIT’s “refusal” to pay the two awards, which are valued at €10,300 and €7,800 and were awarded in March and June respectively.
Speaking to Trinity News, WIT TUI Branch Secretary, Kathleen Moore Walsh, stated: “To date, WIT has indicated a desire to pay the two women their awards, but claim that an unnamed person in the Department of Education told them that they cannot.”
TUI General Secretary, Aidan Kenny, has requested that WIT name the individual within the Department of Education who is allegedly blocking the awards.
A ballot to take industrial action in response to the awards not being paid passed with 96.3% of branch members in favour of the action, making it one of the most supported ballots in the branch’s history.
Members were balloted on whether to commence a work-to-rule, which would entail all branch members refraining from engaging with emails outside of normal working hours. Emails would not be dealt with outside of 9:15am to 5:15pm Monday to Friday, with all branch members directed to include a notice on their WIT email accounts which would inform contacts of the industrial action.
Both grievances which were brought to the WRC earlier this year by two female staff members, and related to the timing and procedure of progression from assistant lecturer to lecturer pay grades.
The WRC issued awards in both cases as reimbursement of back money which was owed to the staff members, both of whom were found to have been paid incorrectly at the lower pay scale. Moore Walsh outlined that “a male colleague encountered no difficulties” in a similar situation.
The Technological Higher Education Association (THEA) represented WIT in one of the cases, while a legal firm represented them in the second case.
WIT has not appealed the decision of either case to the Labour Court, but is yet to pay the awards months after the WRC issued its decision.
The results of the latest ballot have been sent to the TUI Executive, which will instruct WIT staff members on when to commence the proposed industrial action.
Speaking to Trinity News, WIT Communications and PR Executive Elaine Larkin stated: “The institute cannot comment on individual cases.”
In September, academic staff in WIT and Institute of Technology Carlow, who are members of Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), voted for industrial action over a lack of communication from management regarding plans for designation as a Technological University.
WIT and IT Carlow are pursuing Technological University status as a consortium under the name Technological University for the South-East (TUSE). Between 2013 and 2017, TUSE have received €720,000 in Exchequer funding.
In response to the ballot in September, WIT President, Professor Willie Donnelly, told the Munster Express that the lack of communication was due to academics being on annual leave in an article titled, “WIT President Excited by the ‘new Waterford’: Willie Donnelly rails against negativity as TU process proceeds”. The article sparked further concern among WIT academics.
Lecturers at Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) are also balloting for industrial action due to understaffing and overcrowded classrooms. Members are being balloted on whether to take “industrial action, up to and including strike action, on the issue of the failure of DkIT Senior Management to plan and conduct the necessary recruitment to ensure programmes can be delivered fully and students get the complete education to which they are entitled”.