PLANS to promote Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) to full university status have been set back by a vote at IT Carlow.
The two colleges are to merge into a Technological University for the South East but teaching staff at Carlow have rejected the employment terms offered.
They voted by 60 per cent against a Memorandum of Understanding setting out the working conditions. The memorandum was overwhelmingly approved by the teaching staff at WIT, with 93 per cent voting in favour.
The Carlow vote is not expected to sink the plan for a Technological University but it will almost certainly delay progress to university status, which cannot be approved until the two ITs have merged.
Waterford’s Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane expressed “deep regret” at the Carlow rejection. “The region needs a university of international standing and one that can drive economic growth,” he said.
But another Sinn Féin TD, Kathleen Funchion (Carlow/Kilkenny), said the Teachers Union of Ireland members at Carlow had a valid point. She understood they were being offered shorter leave entitlements than their Waterford counterparts and felt they had an “understandable gripe”.
Waterford’s Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler said she was optimistic the issues could be resolved.
“Getting the memorandum over the line with majority support from the ITs and union involved will now likely take more time and patience than originally anticipated but I’m confident we will do it,” she said.
Fianna Fáil councillor, Eamon Quinlan, said the government should change the legislation to allow Waterford to proceed independently.
But the President of WIT, Willie Donnelly, said going it alone was not an option.
IT Carlow management described the result as disappointing. In a statement, a spokesperson said it did not consider delays due to industrial relations unusual for such a project.
“These arise from differing work practices, operating models and expectations across merging institutes that have evolved as independent entities over many decades,” it said.
“Many of the issues identified for harmonisation in the new TUSEI (Technological University for the South East Ireland) are complex and multi-faceted, impacting not only on members of the TUI, but also on learners, all staff and external stakeholders.”
Mr Cullinane congratulated the WIT staff who, he said, had “stepped up to the plate”.
He said: “It is important that politicians and stakeholders in Waterford do not knee jerk in our response. We must listen to their concerns and move forward together.”