NWRC dispute ‘can be resolved’

The Director of the North West Regional College yesterday said an ongoing industrial dispute at the college can still be resolved internally.

Seamus Murphy said he believes the public manner in which the dispute has been played out “ does nothing for the city, nothing for the college and nothing for the young people.”

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) - which represents around 350 NWRC teaching staff - and management have been involved in a long running dispute over redundancies and redeployments at the college.

Furthermore, in June of this year the ‘Journal’ revealed that five UCU members at NWRC were allegedly facing disciplinary action after taking part in a protest at the opening of a new building at the Strand Road complex.

Two further UCU officials, who have been told they are to lose their senior lecturer posts at NWRC, are to face appeal hearings before the governing body.

Last week it emerged that all six Derry MLAs and the city’s MP Mark Durkan had written a joint letter to Further Education Minister Stephen Farry calling for the launch of an independent investigation and the suspension of all disciplinary proceedings, compulsory redundancies and redeployments at the college.

Mr Murphy said the letter was an “unfortunate” development.

“However I accept that politicians have a right to write to the minister although it would have been helpful if the facts had been checked with the college.”

He said the UCU withdrew from the local consultative committee four years ago as part of regional action and has since chosen not to re-engage with that body. But he said a resolution to the dispute could still be reached.

“I think a resolution could be quite easily reached if the union re-engages with colleagues and management through the consultative committee and instead of discussing industrial action through the media or Assembly, that they come back in house and around the table. I would like to see this done as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr Murphy said NWRC management had been able to make an offer of redeployment to all staff under during a restructuring programme.

The NWRC Director also rejected recent criticism over the independence of the college’s disciplinary procedures.

“We have an independent investigation mechanism in that we have an audit process that reports to the governing body, it does not report to management. The disciplinary process agreed with the unions identifies the structure of different levels of discipline and we will be adhering to that structure.”

He said despite the dispute, “staff relations with line management on the ground are very good.”