Date Released: 10 February 2015
SIPTU members at NUI Galway have expressed “deep disappointment” at the process to appoint a taskforce to investigate gender discrimination in the college.
In a statement the SIPTU NUI Galway Academic Committee said: "This task force has been chosen behind closed doors, without reference to any publicised criteria. It is not even clear whether any member of the taskforce will have a specialist expertise in equality in the workplace.
“The taskforce was chosen by a university management team which must bear some responsibility for the avoidable discrimination problems which have plagued the institution. It’s like letting the fox guard the hen house.”
The committee noted that the establishment of the taskforce, the scope of whose investigation has not been released, directly contravenes the plan unanimously supported by a vote of the SIPTU NUI Galway academic section on 8th January. This plan called for the establishment of a taskforce of independent equality experts whose appointment would be agreed with unions. It also sought the establishment of procedures that would allow staff and students to meet confidentially with the taskforce to give evidence.
The committee added: “The university management team seems increasingly out-of-touch with those working in the institution. This is evident from the unacceptable manner in which, while announcing a taskforce to tackle discrimination, the President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, appeared to censure Dr. Sheehy Skeffington, a SIPTU member who was discriminated against. He also appeared to misconstrue aspects of the decision of the Equality Tribunal in relation to her case.
“This attitude is also evident in the decision of the university management team to appeal the decision of the Equality Tribunal in respect of another SIPTU member, Mary Dempsey. In Mary’s case it was found that her employer had asked her to work while on maternity leave and tried to pressure her into accepting a demotion while she was on pregnancy-related sick leave.
“The discrimination proven against NUI Galway in the two cases noted is only a sample of a whole range of policies and practices which have rendered inequality systemic in the institution. SIPTU members are determined that all aspects of discrimination at NUI Galway are addressed, and challenge the institution’s president and senior management to begin to live up to the international reputation which its academic staff holds for championing fundamental human rights.”