Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) lecturers outside the Thurles Campus, strike over crises within the educational sector.
Institute of Technology academic staff represented by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) went on a one day strike today, (Wednesday February 3rd 2016), thus commencing a campaign of industrial action regarding a number of crisis issues within their sector. Last December, third level members voted in a national ballot, by a margin of 92%, in favour of a campaign of industrial action up to and including strike action.
Today’s action was brought about following key concerns of chronic underfunding of the sector, a 32% rise in student numbers over a time when lecturer numbers have fallen by 10% and the precarious employment status of many of the lecturers themselves.
The TUI, which represent 4,000 lecturers and researchers in Institutes of Technology and are urging the Department of Education and Skills to engage meaningfully with them and to urgently attempt to address these serious issues.
Speaking to the strikers today, we understand that on a daily basis, that Institute of Technology lecturers observe at first-hand what damage an era of austerity cuts can have on the student experience within higher education. According to the striking workforce the Institute of Technology sector has been brutalised by an era of anti-educational cutbacks and the latest figures speak for themselves, i.e. Funding cut by 35% (€190m) between 2008 and 2015; Student numbers rising by a staggering (32%) 21,411; Lecturer numbers falling by 9.5% (535) etc. This situation is having a daily direct and detrimental effect on the quality of services available to students not to mention the working conditions of the academics themselves.
While the vast increase in numbers participating in third level education is being welcomed, the complete failure to provide appropriate funding and to maintain appropriate staffing levels is now long past the stage of having a negative impact on the student experience at higher education levels. Students now experience much larger class sizes, less access to laboratories and libraries and a sharp cut to tutorials and other student supports.
Lecturer workloads currently being undertaken have increased significantly to the point of being intolerably in recent years. Recent findings via a survey carried out by TUI show that lecturers are experiencing high levels of work related stress as a result of cutbacks and rationalisation measures which were put into force.
This sector has made an enormous contribution to social, economic and cultural development, yet their success is being dangerously undermined by short sighted and vicious austerity cuts. In the absence of any move towards remedying this unacceptable situation, academic staff in the institutes have been left with no option but to take necessary strike action.
They now urging the Department of Education and Skills to take serious heed and engage with them on these crisis issues.