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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG teaching staff ‘will not cooperate with unsafe work practices’

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Unions representing teaching staff at NUI Galway have expressed deep concerns that social distancing will not be possible when classes return at the end of the month.

Guidance issued to third level institutes from the Department of Higher Education recommends that a physical distance of two metres during lectures should be maintained “where possible”, but adds that there will be situations where classes can only be delivered with less than two metres.

In this instance, no less than one-metre distance should be maintained, and face coverings should be worn.

However, over 100 staff members of teaching staff at the university who are members of SIPTU academic section unanimously passed a resolution last Wednesday in which they agreed that they would not cooperate with unsafe work practices.

“The members of SIPTU Academic Section resolve that members will not cooperate with unsafe work practices including one-metre centre-to-centre distancing in teaching venues for students and/or staff, in contradiction of best-practice two metre distance,” states the adopted resolution.

They noted the university’s commitment to ‘prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of staff, students and the wider community above all other considerations’, but concerns remain.

They called on the university to adopt a more “sustainable, low-risk, welfare-based approach, which can be built on cautiously, where any agreed on-campus activity, including teaching and learning will be set at the standard two-metre distance as a default and any decisions on the amount and type of any face-to-face teaching are safety rather than target-driven”.

Their resolution states that SIPTU members are not compelled to work in an environment that jeopardises their safety, or that of the students.

Members resolved to withhold their cooperation until agreement on a physical design and working practice that supports a default two-metre distancing is arrived at and installed.

In a separate letter, sent to the Galway City Tribune from a lecturer who wished to remain anonymous, it’d claimed that NUIG was instructing staff to teach with one-metre distance “as standard, in classroom and theatre situations”.

“This is not about labs or any other scenario where distance is a factor in the practicality of teaching. It’s a gross distortion of the IUA [Irish Universities Association] guidelines, which themselves are an ambiguous stretch of the Government guidelines,” said the lecturer, referring to the IUA’s published interpretation of guidelines which state that only in “exceptional circumstances” should less than two metres be observed.

“Control and decision-making has been centralised; usually, decisions about teaching are made by College Boards, where every academic staff member has a vote, and the Registrar appears in person. There hasn’t been a College Board meeting since before lockdown,” the lecturer writes.

Meanwhile, SIPTU has called on the Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris to provide clarity on how the guidelines, which were published last month, should be implemented.

“Some colleges are proposing continued online learning and others are opting for ‘face-to-face’ learning with one-metre social distancing. It is important that there is a high degree of uniformity and clarity on these guidelines for the sector. Such a clear and coherent approach is all the more necessary in light of the increase in the rate of recorded cases of Covid-19 since the guidelines were first published,” said Adrian Kane, SIPTU’s Public Administration and Community Division Organiser.

A statement from NUIG to the Galway City Tribune outlined that the maximum number of people allowed in a class “will be in accordance with the prevailing public health guidance on indoor gatherings. This may change in accordance with the evolving Covid-19 situation nationally”.

“Our preparations include a range of procedures and protocols to ensure our community’s safety, including social distancing, along with a number of other important control measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

“As required by the ‘Implementation Guidelines for Public Health Measures in Higher Education Institutions’, space on campus, including teaching space will be ‘laid out and managed in order to safeguard the health of both staff and students’. A physical distance of two metres is maintained as default in all campus settings ‘where possible’.

“In all cases, without exception, staff and students will be required to take appropriate mitigation measures, including the wearing of face visors and face masks at all times in indoor settings on campus, as well as adherence to good hygiene etiquette. The university is engaging with academic staff representatives to reach agreement this week on planning parameters.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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