When Micheline first won her case, Jim Browne, the University President, said he wasn’t concerned about the resulting bad publicity as it would soon be over, replaced by a positive news story about NUI Galway. Well, here we are, two years later and the fall-out from her win is still causing bad publicity for NUI Galway. That’s precisely because management continues with the same attitude that if they ignore it, eventually it will go away. Instead there’s recently been another flurry of press reports.
Meanwhile, the student supporters of the campaign have set up a table on Tuesdays on the University’s main concourse where they are signing people up for a demo at the upcoming High Court hearing. The campaign plans to hire a couple of buses to take everyone. A mass of students demonstrating outside the High Court in Dublin against NUI Galway is going to result in a tidal wave of bad publicity. Will management never get it?
The student’s table, next to Smokey’s Café on the main concourse.
The students are fired up about the injustice. There are five other female lecturers who deserved promotion as much as Micheline in the same senior lecturer promotion round in which 16 men were promoted and only one woman, despite 50% of junior lecturers being women. Micheline says she knows this as she saw the application details and scoring for everyone shortlisted. But management refuse to do anything about it, even to set up an enquiry – instead all they do is delay the resulting court cases. IFUT, the staff union that represent two of the five women, issued a statement last week accusing the university of deliberate delay. In response, NUI Galway issued their own press release claiming that was not the case.
But what are the facts? One of the women, represented by IFUT, is taking a Labour Court case. You’d think that would be straightforward. After all, NUI Galway admitted to the Equality Tribunal that one of the promoted men wasn’t even eligible to apply for promotion while the woman who is taking this Labour Court case was deemed next in line for promotion by the promotion board. Thus, she should have been promoted. But instead, at the initial grievance procedure meeting required by the Labour Court, NUI Galway failed to show up. Then when the actual Labour Court hearing happened, five months later, and the judge asked if NUI Galway were prepared to attend a grievance procedure meeting rather than him making a ruling, they said yes. That hearing was in early May, more than six months ago. There still hasn’t been a proper grievance procedure meeting! We hear that when they did finally attend a meeting last month, the three people representing NUI Galway said they couldn’t do anything as they hadn’t any of the paper work – this is despite one of them being at the Labour Court hearing where NUI Galway had all that paper work! It’s no wonder IFUT then issued their press statement accusing NUI Galway of deliberate delay.
The four other women have to take High Court cases based on gender discrimination. In October, NUI Galway’s lawyers applied for and received permission for a pre-trial hearing that would deal with the legal arguments alone. NUI Galway claimed this was to potentially save the cost of a full High Court hearing but what it will also do, if successful, is prevent the facts from coming out, the reasons for sixteen men and only one woman being promoted – facts that would, if Micheline is right, be very embarrassing for management. The date the four women have now been offered for this pre-hearing is May 4th, 2017! That means that even if NUI Galway lose the pre-hearing, the actual High Court action itself might not happen until 2018! And the University claims they are not delaying things!!
This continual delay is truly awful for the five women concerned, but it is also detrimental for the university. It means NUI Galway continues to get bad publicity. For instance, the students will be there demonstrating outside the pre-hearing as well as any main hearing if that also happens. It means NUI Galway can’t be considered for an Athena Swan award while there are pending legal cases – something the HEA has told universities they have to receive if they want continued funding. It makes no sense. Promoting the five women would cost less than the annual salary being paid to the new Vice President for Equality. That’s a post that seems to be mostly about optics rather than change. But what’s the point of spending all that money on optics when you continue to undermine her by refusing to promote the five women? The only people that seem to gain from this continued delaying are the management themselves. At the rate they are going they’ll all be well out of the place before anything happens. Jim Browne himself certainly will be. He retires at the start of March 2018.