4,000 Institute of Technology lecturers and researchers in the country’s 14 Institutes of Technology are today taking strike action over the damage inflicted on their sector and on the service to students by an era of cutbacks. The strike has been organised by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which represents academic and research staff in the sector.
It follows an overwhelming mandate for industrial action in a national ballot of members in December.
TUI has described support from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) for the strike as ‘hugely significant.’
The union is urging the Department of Education and Skills to engage meaningfully with it on a number of crisis issues.
Speaking today, TUI President Gerry Quinn said:
‘Today’s strike action has not been taken lightly, and the support of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is hugely significant. Despite the ongoing rhetoric about economic recovery, lecturers and students continue to suffer the damage that austerity cuts have wreaked on the education system.
Institutes of Technology have made an enormous contribution to the country’s social, economic and cultural development. However, this success is being consistently and dangerously undermined by short-sighted and anti-educational austerity cuts.
As a direct result of several years of budgetary cuts, today’s students experience larger class sizes and less access to laboratories, equipment, materials, libraries and tutorials.
Funding for the sector fell by €190m (35%) between 2008 and 2015. Over the same period, student numbers rose dramatically by 21,411 (32%) while 535 (9.5%) lecturing positions were lost. Lecturer workload has reached unsustainable levels and staff morale has been severely damaged.
To make matters worse, the precarious employment status of many is an additional blight on the sector, with a sizeable proportion of academic staff suffering income poverty as a result of low hours and insecure employment.
As a result of these critical issues, TUI members at third level were left with no option but to take strike action. In the interests of quality and standards, we urge the Department of Education and Skills to engage meaningfully with us to seek a sustainable solution to this unacceptable crisis. This is the very least that students deserve.’