Union Expresses “Shock and Anger” after TCD Shuns Labour Court Ruling

Rónán Burtenshaw


The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) have expressed “shock and anger” at Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) decision not to follow the recommendations of the Labour Court in relation to three staff made compulsorily redundant in the past year. The Labour Court ruled against TCD in May and recommended that College should resolve the issue through “flexibility, redeployment and retraining provisions” or a scheme of “voluntary redundancy”.

IFUT’s General Secretary Mike Jennings said that the organisation “would not allow TCD’s decision to stand” and that the union’s members had given “historic levels of extra productivity and co-operation”. This, he said, “had allowed the College to take in increased number of students at the same as significant reductions in staff numbers were implemented.”

Two of the staff involved in the case 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.

In the court case IFUT had successfully argued that the staff’s Contracts of Indefinite Duration (CIDs) were permanent and could not be attached to external funding streams. This is consistent with previous Labour Court rulings which had afforded CIDs the status of permanency. However, in a statement given to Trinity News this evening, College’s Communications Office said that TCD had “a well established practice of effecting redundancies where the supporting funding ceases, or where the associated work has been completed”. The statement continued to say that “College does not believe that the parties to the (Croke Park) Public Service Agreement intended to extend protections on tenure of employment, incurring major costs, in areas where none previously existed.”

TCD: “The College does not believe that the parties to the PSA intended to extend protections on tenure of employment in areas where none previously existed.”

TCD disagreed with IFUT’s assessment of the Labour Court’s ruling as “binding”, continuing that it had “honoured its contractual obligations to the claimants” and “remained fully committed” to the Croke Park Agreement. Forcing TCD “to employ staff in situations where there is no identifiable work or funding available to support the payment of their salaries” would “place an excessively onerous and unsustainable burden on the College”, they said.

IFUT have said that they will “refer TCD’s behaviour” to the National Implementation Body for the (Croke Park) Public Service Agreement, accusing them of “reneging on the deal” that there would be “no compulsory redundancies”. The National Executive of IFUT will meet to discuss the matter on June 14th.

Speaking to Trinity News today IFUT General Secretary Mike Jennings said that the first move would be to bring the issue up with the public service unions and the Social Partners. “This decision clearly has widespread consequences and I would imagine we would get strong support from those areas,” he said. “We have taken a slow and steady approach to this process thus far and we will continue to do so – because we are in the right.” He said that the organisation would be discussing balloting all IFUT members to leave the Croke Park Agreement on June 14th and that they “wouldn’t rule out” industrial action. TCD have said that they would consider industrial action “an inappropriate response”, and that it does not believe that the Social Partners were under the impression that any compulsory redundancy deal would include non-core funded staff.

The outcomes of this case are likely to have significant ramifications for staff in Trinity College. As of March, College had 2,860 full-time staff of which only 1,726, around 60%, were ‘core-funded’. One-third of TCD’s funding comes from what TCD describe as “non exchequer, research or philanthropic sources.” Previous Labour Court proceedings reveal that the Art History lecturer in this case had a contract that was “supported by income which accrues to the Irish Art Research Centre from external sources.”