Technological Universities Bill 2015: Report Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 904 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan] Amendment No. 39, in providing that the method of publication of those procedures must be jointly agreed with the parties concerned, goes further than is necessary. Institutes of technology and universities currently make those procedures available both in hard copy and electronically. This would also be the case for technological universities. For these reasons, I cannot support amendments Nos. 36 and 39.

However, following the discussion of this matter on Committee Stage, I propose amendment No. 37. This amendment makes absolutely clear that a technological university will be required to consult with all trade unions and staff associations representing its staff when developing its dispute resolution procedures.

With regard to amendment No. 86, proposed by Deputies Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger and Joe Higgins, I repeat that the proposed amendment would alter standard wording that is found in a wide range of similar legislation. Furthermore, the sole outcome of this amendment would be to remove any flexibility available to a trade union to enter a revised collective agreement in relation to remuneration. For both reasons, I cannot support this amendment.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The fact that the phrase "staff association" is used in other legislation is not a good enough reason for it to be used in the Bill. As the Minister stated, none of the institutes currently have staff associations and there are a number of college presidents who are members of trade unions. The staff association could be used to undermine trade union representation. That is one of the concerns I have. In my opinion, it is anti-worker. The provision should be removed. As I stated, if I had my way, I would probably remove it from other legislation as well. Just because it is in previous legislation, it does not mean it is right.

In relation to consultation with trade unions around disputes, we also included the issue of students. If there is a dispute with a student, the student union should be recognised as a party to that dispute. That is the basis of that amendment.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan The latter is included. Certainly, my interpretation is that it is already catered for.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Where?

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan In the section of the Bill that talks about the rights of students unions, which we discussed earlier on.

With regard to the use of the term "staff association," this legislation is for the future, and even if there are not any staff associations now, we do not want to preclude them, if there were any in the future, from being covered under the Bill. As I stated, the term is used in a pile of other Acts. This is not to say that we want somehow or other to turn trade unions into staff associations. It is simply to cater for possibilities that could arise in the future, even if they do not exist at present in this sector.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I would argue that members of staff should be represented by trade unions and that by creating the option of staff associations, we are providing that they may not be represented by trade unions in the future. As the Minister stated, such associations do not exist within the institutes currently. We should not be encouraging them to exist in the future by making provision in legislation which would allow them to be created within the sector.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Amendment No. 10, in the names of Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan, Jonathan O'Brien and Charlie McConalogue, arises out of committee proceedings.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan I move amendment No. 10:

In page 12, line 14, after "section" to insert "7, 10,".

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Section 3 states "Where an order under section 18, 46 or 53 is proposed to be made, a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House." We propose to include sections 7 and 10, which is, the dissolutions of the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown and Institute of Technology, Tallaght and of the Cork Institute of Technology and Institute of Technology, Tralee, respectively, in the order process. Those should be included. The draft order for their dissolutions should be laid before each House and the order should not be made until a resolution approving that draft order has been passed by both Houses.

Deputy Jan O'Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Section 3 provides that an order of the Minister to merge institutes of technology under section 18, to establish a technological university under section 46 or to incorporate an institute of technology into a technological university under section 53 shall require a positive resolution of each House of the Oireachtas before it can be made by the Minister. Because those sections give the Minister broad authority to merge institutions which are not specifically identified in the Bill, this requirement ensures that the Oireachtas cannot be found to have delegated excessive powers to the Minister in that regard. Obviously, the other two groups are specifically referred to in the Bill. Sections 7 and 10 provide for the making of orders by the Minister to give effect to the mergers in Dublin and Munster. In both of those cases, the Oireachtas, in passing this Bill, will have specifically identified these institutes of technologies involved and, therefore, will have simply delegated to the Minister the power to implement the mergers it has identified. Therefore, it cannot be argued that the Minister has been given excessive authority by the Oireachtas, and there would be no need for the Houses of the Oireachtas to approve the orders in those cases. It is really to distinguish between those that are specifically mentioned in the Bill - that is, the Munster and Dublin mergers - and the ones that are not specifically mentioned in the Bill, which are presumably the other two regions that have currently indicated their interest, as well as other regions in the future.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I understand the reasoning for not including sections 7 and 10, because they are already in progress. We have amendments that will deal with sections 7 and 10, which we can discuss later. I believe that in the interest of consistency, these sections should be included in the orders which will be laid before the House. These are separate sections within the Bill and we will deal with them when we get to them. The amendment stands.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Amendment No. 11, in the names of Deputies Paul Murphy, Ruth Coppinger, Joe Higgins and Jonathan O'Brien, arises out of committee proceedings. Amendments Nos. 11 to 17, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I move amendment No. 11:

In page 13, to delete lines 30 to 35.

This relates to what we have just discussed - that is, the provision for merging the institutes. Under the legislation, a draft order would be laid before the Houses, as the Minister explained, and it would be voted on by both the Dáil and Seanad before the resolution could be approved.

  We include this amendment because we do not want to see a situation arise in relation to section 7, which relates to the merger of the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown and the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, and to the merger in Munster, that of the IOTs in Tralee and Cork, which is currently in progress, particularly given that the merger involving Cork is the subject of industrial action. As part of this grouping, Deputies Maureen O’Sullivan, McConalogue and I have tabled amendment No. 16, which states:

In page 14, line 20, after "subsection (2)" to insert the following:
", which order shall be made following application from the governing bodies and presidents of each of the constituent colleges and said application shall include a statement that the terms of the merger have been agreed with the staff trade unions".

We propose that before the order comes to the Minister's desk, there would have to be agreement at governing body level with the staff and the trade unions, and at that point a request can be made for technological university status. If we do not put that in, we could have a situation in which a request is made even if there are still industrial relations disputes or issues within the proposed merger, and the Minister would have the power to place the order before the Houses.


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