Minister’s position kept open – but 50 GMIT jobs slashed

Sean Canney: .on leave of absence from post.

A Government Minister’s teaching position at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) will not be axed in the swingeing cutbacks planned at the third level college.

GMIT is planning to slash up to 50 jobs through a series of redundancies, non-replacement of staff who retire and non-renewal of temporary contracts.

The cuts are part of an overall plan to reduce the college’s €40 million-plus annual payroll costs.

However, the Connacht Tribune has learned that the position previously held by Seán Canney, Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, will be retained.

The Department of Building and Civil Engineering at the city campus is planning to fill the position left vacant by the Galway East TD, who is on leave or a ‘career break’ from his quantity surveying lecture position.

In an email to staff, Head of Department Mary Rogers, who is also a member of GMIT’s Governing Body, confirmed that they will seek to retain two positions for the new 2017/2018 academic year.

This was agreed, she said, following a meeting with current GMIT president Fergal Barry, and its financial controller Jim Fennell.

The email said: “Only two of the advertised posts will progress to interview – namely AL in Quantity Surveying (to cover Sean Canney’s hours) and AL in BIM (to cover hours for HDip in BIM and new BRE programme).”

Minister Canney was a lecturer but his hours will be covered by an assistant lecturer, according to the correspondence.

Ms Rogers informed staff that plan agreed with Messrs Barry and Fennell stated that “No additional academic hours will be approved over those already in place in the current academic year 2106/2017. Any additional hours required are to be dealt with through timetabling.”

Staff to student ratios will increase, she said, and so will the targets for the number of students enrolled.

Ms Roger’s email is an example of the implementation of cutbacks at a micro level, on the ground at its campuses in Galway and Mayo.

All other departments at GMIT are finalising cutback plans to rein-in spending.

GMIT has been running budget deficits for the four years to 2015, which, according to a new report, is threatening, “the viability and sustainability of its core operations in the longer term”.

The report, compiled by Michael O’Connell – a former financial controller at Limerick IT, when he was a colleague of Mr Barry – recommends cost reductions and income generation totalling €5 million for 2015-2020.

The suite of measures to reduce the €40 million-plus annual payroll costs, include non-replacement of staff who retire, non-renewal of temporary contracts, and redundancies.

The remaining staff will undergo the “retraining, reassignment and redeployment” to “create efficiencies” and to “absorb this reduction in capacity”.

On page four of the document, under sub-heading ‘control of staff costs’, Mr O’Connell, says, in bold and underlined: “GMIT’s staff costs have not reduced as its income has declined and it is necessary for this report to address in a definitive way this difficult but absolutely critical issue. The overriding requirement is that GMIT’s staff costs must be brought into line with what GMIT can afford.”

The report then outlines the argument in favour of job losses in academic and non-academic staff.

The O’Connell report says GMIT has 642 whole-time-equivalent (WTE) staff posts being paid by the exchequer, which is “50 posts more than authorised” under the State’s Employment Control Framework.

GMIT pays a further 42 WTE staff from its own resources, but the report says “these posts must be re-examined” because of the “significant and sustained overall deficit”.

It has a further 21 WTE staff self-financed by a campus company.

It highlights how GMIT is funding 705 posts, compared with 651 in the 2011/2012 academic year, when GMIT had 400 more students.

“Clearly this increase (in staff) has contributed very significantly to GMIT’s ongoing deficits,” it said.

The report identifies that a “large portion” of the unfunded excess cost of payroll is from non-academic staff.

“It is recommended that over a three-year period GMIT reduces its staff numbers to the authorised Employment Control Framework level of 592.”