An advert appeared in the Belfast Telegraph recently for the job of Communications and Public Relations Manager for the University of Ulster - salary between £38,521 and £45,967. A very good job by North West standards, then, the sort that we cannot afford to lose - particularly in the light of what appears to be the export of the Stream jobs to Belfast - which is where the UU positions also will be located.
The move is part of the break-up of the university’s current communications unit, to the detriment of both the Derry and Coleraine campuses and to the benefit of Jordanstown and, more particularly, Belfast.
The advert specifies: “The posts are available at an early date mutually convenient to the University and the successful applicants will be based initially at the Jordanstown campus with an anticipated move to the Belfast City campus in a few years time.”
One person based in Coleraine has been told on a take or lump it basis to move to Jordanstown at a lower salary that at present and with no recompense for travel costs or time. A number of others will also face relegation to a lower grade.
Derry will be left with a single member of the communications team - to the considerable disgruntlement of those affected concerned and, I can say, of the National Union of Journalists. If there is one area of work which doesn’t need to be located in a particular place, it’s journalism/communications. Modern technology means that the bulk of the tasks can be carried out almost anywhere.
Already, we have a number of cross-channel publications laid out outside the UK -against strong NUJ and general union opposition. There are indications that one regional publication is considering the transfer of part of its production to India.
If the UU wanted to concentrate communications, the Coleraine jobs could just as easily have been brought to Derry.
One intriguing aspect of the issue is that the pro-vice chancellor covering Magee doubles up as pro-vice chancellor for communications. So how can this have happened?