Announcement of forced job losses at Queen’s makes nonsense of NI Executive promises that public sector Exit Scheme would be voluntary
September 17th: Unite Regional Officer, Sean Smyth, called upon Minister Farry to take action to address the challenge facing the Higher Education sector in Northern Ireland:
“As part of the austerity budget underpinning the Stormont House Agreement, funding to support Northern Ireland’s two universities was reduced by more than £16 million leading to thousands of student places being slashed, faculties and schools being closed and hundreds of voluntary job losses being announced.
“It has been revealed that Queen’s University has told staff it is likely to require compulsory redundancies to meet the budgetary shortfall. This disclosure makes a nonsense of the repeated assurances provided by Stormont Ministers, including the Finance Minister, that their £700 million public sector exit scheme would not mean compulsory redundancies.
“When he announced his Budget, Simon Hamilton said that its central pillar was ‘the protection of key frontline health and education services, investments that underpin economic growth in Northern Ireland’. However the reality is that cuts to Higher Education Institutions have forced the closure of STEM and Modern language facilities vital to our economic future. They have closed the door to thousands of students, increasing competition for the a reduced pool of places and raising the bar for entry ever further away from those whose families cannot afford private education or tutors at secondary level.
“Unite is calling on DEL Minister Farry to take responsibility for what is happening in his name in our Higher Education sector. He must intervene immediately to ensure greater openness over proposals, avoid compulsory redundancy situations and to mitigate the impact on educational opportunity”, Mr Smyth concluded.