Labour Court Rules Against College in Staff Sackings

Mike Jennings, General Secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT)

Ronan Burtenshaw


The Labour Court has recommended that Trinity College Dublin reinstate three staff members made compulsorily redundant by the College in the past year. The Court’s recommendation stated that, under the Public Service (‘Croke Park’) Agreement, the College should have sought to resolve the issue through “flexibility, redeployment and retraining provisions” or a scheme of “voluntary redundancy”.

Two of the staff are lecturers, with one employed in the School of Social Work and Social Policy and the other in the Department of Art History and Architecture. They were made involuntarily redundant in 2011 – the first was served a redundancy notice on June 30th and the other on December 29th. The third was a member of the library staff and was served notice in January after protracted negotiations with the College.

IFUT successfully argued that the staff’s contracts were permanent, not fixed-term or temporary, and could not be attached to external funding streams. This is consistent with previous Labour Court rulings which had afforded Contracts of Indefinite Duration (CIDs) the status of permanency.

Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) General Secretary Mike Jennings said that the prohibition on compulsory redundancies in the Croke Park Agreement was a “quid pro quo” for the pay cuts and reform of working conditions consented to by academic staff.

IFUT had earlier “stalled all further engagement” with the Croke Park Agreement, with Jennings describing the redundancies as “completely unacceptable”, saying it had caused “a lot of hardship for all involved”. The union, he said, “warmly welcomed” the Court’s decision in this case, which he said was “binding on TCD”.

A letter written by the current and former heads of the School of Social Work and Social Policy to the College in November expressed “disquiet” at the termination of CIDs. Dr. Eoin O’Sullivan and Professor Robbie Gilligan wrote “for many years the College position, as relayed to us by the Human Resources office, in relation to [CIDs] was that such staff had the same status as tenured… staff”.

In the Labour Court, College had argued that the CIDs were contractually conditional on a stream of ‘non-core’ funding. Core funding, although the term has yet to be defined by TCD, is associated with the funds derived from students enrolled in the College. Previous Labour Court proceedings reveal that the Art History lecturer’s contract included a clause stating that the position was “supported by income which accrues to the Irish Art Research Centre from external sources.”

According to Jennings the union “pointed out that a very high number of permanent College staff were funded in this way”. As of March, College had 2,860 full-time staff of which only 1,726, around 60%, were ‘core-funded’.

Speaking to Trinity News earlier today through the Communications Office, College said that it was “considering the recommendation”.