UNISON has accused the University of Ulster of carrying out an “ill-thought out” attempt to privatise its cleaners, caterers, security staff, mail room workers and porters.
And the union says its members are deeply disappointed at the University’s senior management’s actions which will impact heavily in the lowest paid.
In a statement to the Times, UNISON organiser, Nuala Conlon, said: “Privatisation is an ill-thought out attempt to balance the university’s books on the backs of our members, the lowest paid.
“A new employer would almost certainly cut wages, destroy pensions and deplete the quality of the service in search of ever greater profits”.
Ms Conlon said that UNISON would be letting parents and students know the university’s plans at the graduations ceremonies which began in Coleraine on Monday.
“On the day support workers will put the students, their families and the occasion first”, she said.
“However they do need to communicate their deep disappointment at the University Senior Managements actions and the implicit threat to their futures.
“This approach, as opposed to industrial action, illustrates both the intense worry and frustration of the support staff, but also their deep sense of loyalty to the university and its students. Many of the staff have over twenty years of loyal service to the Coleraine campus.”
Ms Conlon claimed that University management had frustrated staff attempts to present their views to the bodies who made the decision to privatise.
“Good practice and fair procedures would suggest that this request should have been facilitated. Indeed their Human Resources strategy has been to railroad UNISON negotiators into a rollover acceptance of the decision without a right to question.
“It is deeply regrettable the Vice Chancellor Richard Barnett, a previous critic of low pay in the wider economy, has failed to meet with support services clearly now cast as undervalued members of staff.
“UNISON has been very active in defending public services and public servants in the Coleraine area recently, not least in leading the defence of A&E services at the Causeway Hospital.
“With this in mind, we hope the wider Coleraine community will support our members in this fight for fair treatment for low-paid local workers.”
A University of Ulster spokesperson said: “Some of the university’s catering and facilities services provision is already outsourced and the university can confirm that it plans to outsource the remainder of the services.
“This will be done in line with the transfer of undertakings (TUPE) legislation and hence there will be no job losses for those who have permanent contracts with the university, nor will there be any change in the terms and conditions of those staff.
“Both the staff and the union were briefed on this several months ago”.