independent

Tuesday 20 August 2019

WIT staff vote in favour of strike action over proposed merger

Waterford Institute of Technology
Waterford Institute of Technology

By Esther Hayden

Academic staff in the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) have voted in favour of strike action in response to the proposed merger of WIT with the Institute of Technology Carlow (ITC).

Staff gave an overwhelming mandate to engage in industrial action against a proposal to merge with the Institute of Technology Carlow. After a relatively short consultation period with members, 94 per cent voted in favour of industrial action with a turnout of just under 65 per cent of members (academic and research staff).

The result is unambiguous and shows that members are opposed to the requirement that institutes should have to merge in order to apply for technological university status. Lecturers believe that there is absolutely no academic rationale for forced mergers. The requirement to merge is part of the outdated cutbacks policy which seeks to make financial savings by the rationalisation of services, supports, provisions and reductions in staff.

The Branch are calling on the Minister to remove the requirement to merge from the draft legislation relating to the Heads of Bill General Scheme Technological University 2014. The Branch consider that WIT should be given the opportunity to apply, in its own right, for university designation. The Branch is also calling on the Government to urgently increase the funding to the institute and higher education sector in general. The institute is a key driver for the region in terms of social, cultural, economic activities and associated benefits in terms of increased employment opportunities.

The union is mounting a national campaign against forced mergers of institutes of technology. The union believes that mergers are part of a further rationalisation of the sector which will result in reduced regional provision of programmes. This will have a direct knock-on effect on local access to higher education and reduce economic benefit to local communities. The union is not opposed to the creation of a technological university sector. However, it is opposed to the requirement to merge in order to make an application. The union position is; that institutes which aspire to be technological universities should receive substantial additional investment, in order to build capacity to meet the academic criteria. In addition, for technological universities to function at university level, there will be a need for significant increases in the numbers of academic and research staff. This will require the Government to provide funding for the new technology university sector that is on a par with the current funding for the universities.

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