War of words over job cuts proposal at GMIT

GMIT

The Governing Body of GMIT is divided over proposals to axe staff from the payroll.

In an unprecedented move, a Governing Body member has publicly challenged GMIT President, Fergal Barry, over alleged “factually incorrect” statements made by him regarding proposed job cuts.

The email sent by Michael Geoghegan, non-academic member of the Governing Body, to Dr Barry, was copied to staff, and members of the Governing Body.  It disputes a circular sent to staff last Thursday, in which Dr Barry said the Governing Body had approved financial projections to 2020 and a programme to eliminate last year’s budget deficit of €2.8 million over five years.

It included “a reduction of 22 posts for this academic year”, Dr Barry said.

But this is disputed by, Mr Geoghegan, who is also GMIT branch chairperson of trade union SPITU.

In his public rebuke, he said: “I have to write to you to state that I believe this communication to be factually incorrect in many regards and I would like to disassociate myself from all of its contents.”

Mr Geoghegan added: “It is my recollection that Governing Body did not approve a reduction of 22 posts for this academic year. What I recall was Governing Body approving programs and budgets . . . while the programs and budgets that were approved did include a proposal for a reduction of 22 posts in the institute, they also included the addition of 17 posts which is a net loss of just five.”

He said he was precluded from saying more because “I believe it would not be following proper protocol”.

When contacted, Mr Geoghegan refused to comment on the contents of his or Dr Barry’s email but he expressed concerns at cutbacks.

“As a governor, all matters relating to the Governing Body should remain in the boardroom,” he said.

“As a trade union man, and as SIPTU shop steward, I want jobs protected. The whole thing has been handled badly. If there are to be job losses, there needs to be opportunities to upskill and retrain.

“I haven’t been given any detailed plans about what jobs are going and who is going to do the work of the people that are let go. Management hasn’t told us what services they will no longer be providing,” said Mr Geoghegan.

Last week’s story in the Galway City Tribune detailing job losses were in the pipeline, prompted lecturers’ trade union, TUI, to voice its alarm.

Aidan Kenny, Assistant General Secretary of TUI, said the union, “is gravely concerned by reports that GMIT intends to cut jobs as a result of budget deficits. The institute of technology sector has already been the subject of severe cuts from the Higher Education Authority over the past five years. The proposal, by an independent consultant, that job cuts are an appropriate saving measure, is absolutely unacceptable to TUI.”

TUI has convened an emergency branch meeting for next Wednesday, May 10 where members will “discuss a response to both the severe funding cuts to the institute and this new threat.”

Mr Kenny added: “TUI will utilise all means to protect its members.”

For the second week in a row, GMIT did not respond to queries submitted by this newspaper. Des Mahon, chairman of the Governing Body, could not be reached.

Another member of the Governing Body, who asked not to be named, said “there’s war up there” in relation to the row between Dr Barry and Mr Geoghegan, and the proposed cuts. “People’s jobs are on the line so it is very sensitive,” the source said.

GMIT Students Union President, Michael Kerrigan, who is also a member of the Governing Body, said: “As we are currently in a poor financial situation cuts have been expected, however it is difficult for us to judge the direct impact of these cuts to students as we are unaware of what jobs will be lost.”