Trade unions SIPTU and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) have this week called on Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan, to intervene in a dispute regarding equality in the workplace at NUI Galway.
The controversy arose following the refusal of university management to attend the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) to address the gender equality issue within the university.
The problem was first brought to light in 2014 when the Equality Tribunal found that the university discriminated against female lecturer, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, on the grounds of her gender in a promotion process in 2009.
The debate escalated when a questionnaire distributed to prospective female job applicants was found to include invasive questions regarding their menstrual cycle and breasts. At the time, NUIG defended the questions saying they were relevant in determining whether an employee would be fit for the job and be able to attend work regularly.
This week’s actions by university management have left unionised workers at NUI Galway “angry and frustrated”. The Gender Equality Task Force, which was established by NUI Galway to tackle these issues, has been deemed ineffective by trade unions as it is not independent.
SIPTU and IFUT this week reiterated that their members had “no confidence” in the current structures in place, calling on higher powers to invoke changes. A recent meeting between NUIG president, Jim Browne, and union representatives served as an update on the progress being made by the Gender Equality Task Force.
An interim report issued in June was criticised by trade unions from the beginning, with calls for an independent task force. SIPTU organiser, Noel Maguire said: “We heard nothing new at this meeting. Management presented a version of events that denies current and historical reality. Oblivious to the extent of the problem, Jim Browne, sought to lecture staff representatives on management’s ‘bravery’ and ‘achievements’ on equality.”
Image: Connacht Tribune