The Croke Park challenge

In the spring of 2010 the government and public service trade unions in Ireland agreed on a framework agreement (the Croke Park agreement) intended to maintain industrial relations peace and promote public sector reform, and maybe reduce exchequer costs (the agreement on pay and conditions in the public service, after negotiations in the Croke Park stadium, hence the title). At the heart of the agreement, from a trade union perspective, was a government commitment not to cut public service pay any further until 2014. As the economy came under increasing stress, the government has so far stuck to the pay commitment.

But the pay elements of the agreement had a price, and this was an agreement by the unions to public service reform. In the case of the universities, these were the relevant provisions:

• With effect from the start of the 2010/11 academic year, the provision of an additional hour per week to be available to facilitate, at the discretion of management, teaching and learning in the university/institute.

• Co-operation with the introduction of academic workload management and full economic costing models and with the compilation of associated data to support these.

• Co-operation with redeployment/re-organisation/rationalisation arising from the review of Higher Education strategy and changing economic and social circumstances.

• A comprehensive review and revision of employment contracts to identify and remove any impediments to the development of an optimum teaching, learning and research environment. This review and revision to be completed in advance of the start of the 2010/11 academic year.

There are two references in these provisions to actions to be completed by the start of the 2010-11 academic year (i.e. by September 2010), and while I stepped down as President of DCU in July, I do not believe that either of these actions were undertaken in that timescale. However, over recent weeks there has been some speculation about discussions that may be under way regarding the agreement, and in a comment posted on this blog the former President of the Teachers Union of Ireland (which organises staff in the institutes of technology), Paddy Healy, suggested that the following reforms were being contemplated (with comments added in parentheses by Paddy Healy himself):

1. That tenure be brought into Line with corporate industrial relations law. (This means that tenure until pensionable age with the individual university is being abolished and university academic staff can be made compulsorily redundant and/or redeployed to other parts of public service. This will require legislation PH)
2. Renegotiation of all existing contracts for implementation from September 2011
3. Contractual restrictions will be placed on Academic Freedom ( The restrictions are not yet clear but if the worst precedents abroad are followed they could include prevention of public criticism of government or the university authorities: they could also include forcing academics to carry out particular research projects or particular research outcomes could be suppressed due to commercial research agreements with private companies eg infamous heliobacter pylori case abroad- PH)
4. Staff must engage with workload monitoring and measurement.
5. Academic staff required to be in attendance at the university each day for twelve consecutive calendar months
6. Holidays to be at the discretion of the University. Staff member must apply and receive approval in advance for holiday leave (The effect of points 5 and 6 taken together is that holiday entitlements are to be set by The Holidays(Employees) ACT which sets minimum holidays for employees to protect them from predatory employers. If this were accepted it would reduce the holiday entitlements of academic staff below those of comparable public service employees and below those of trade unionised employees in the private sector—PH)
7. The current position under which the staff member automatically gets an increment unless management objects will be changed. Staff will only receive an increment following a satisfactory Performance Appraisal outcome. Failure to engage with Performance Appraisal System (PAS) will lead to a freezing of the incremental position and denial of access to promotion, sabbatical leave etc. The PAS system will include student evaluation of lecturers. (Performance appraisal will apply to all grades of academic staff including professors-PH)
8. Extra hour per week of teaching or administration to be implemented immediately
9. Staff may be redeployed to other Departments/duties within the University
10. Staff may be redeployed to other posts outside the university but within the wider public service (as set out in Croke Park Deal) with particular regard to HEA Proposals (eg Mergers to be recommended under Hunt Report PH)
11. Co-operation with Outsourcing (including teaching and research PH) in accordance with Croke Park Deal
12. New arrangements will apply to rewards for additional internal work and external consultancy work.

Some of these initiatives are most unlikely, and certainly would not secure agreement by the universities. Some would be unworkable (including that on academic redeployment to other parts of the public service). And some, I suspect, would not be contemplated  even by the government (such as restricting the right of academics to criticise the government). Others are meaningless (adding one hour per week of teaching or administration would have no substantive meaning in the university sector). But some of the proposed reforms may well be in discussion. It may be advantageous for the universities, sooner rather than later, to indicate to staff what discussions are taking place and what, if any, changes are being contemplated.

A more detailed commentary by Paddy Healy can be found in his blog, here.

Explore posts in the same categories: higher education

Tags: , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

5 Comments on “The Croke Park challenge”

  1. Al Says:

    Interestinf times…
    Reading both the Uni and the IOT Government wish list, it strikes me that the Department may not have a full understanding of what an Academic is supposed to do.
    This seems to be a case of ‘do something extra’ along with extra management powers.
    The management workload here will increase and whether the existing management resources can take up the load is a question worth considering

  2. Paddy Healy Says:

    Read Full Article on Paddy Healy’s Blog http://wp.me/pKzXa-fw
    From Paddy Healy, Former President TUI, Lecturer in Physics, Former member of Governing Body and Academic Council of DIT
    An official document presented by NUIGalway to the Trade Unions containing it’s proposals to implement the Croke Park Deal has now become available. I understand that the implementation proposals in other universities are essentially the same. I am consulting with colleagues in Universities and Institutes of Tech nology with a view to convening a gathering of all Irish academics to resist this attack on academic freedom, the related entitlement to permanency and tenure and, indeed on Irish Democracy itself. Here is the NUIG document:

    Public Service (Croke Park) Agreement – NUI Galway Implementation Plan

    This plan is derived from the Public Service Agreement 2010 (P.S.A.) and the sectoral plan for universities. It reflects the individual needs and responsibilities of the university as an autonomous institution. It should be read in the context of the sectoral plan.

    1. With effect from the start of 2010/11 academic year, the provision of an additional hour per week to be available to facilitate, at the discretion of management, teaching and learning in the university/institute. This will be allocated to individuals by the head of school via the workload model

    2. Co-operation with the introduction of academic workload management and full economic costing models and with the compilation of associated data to support these and operational plans for all staff .

    3. Co-operation with redeployment/re-organisation/rationalisation arising from the review of Higher Education strategy and changing economic and social circumstances and to facilitate the reorganisation of both work and staff to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the university. Additionally, co-operation with measures to promote value for money including inter alia, outsourcing as provided for in the agreement.

    4. A comprehensive review and revision of employment contracts to identify and remove any impediments to the development of an optimum teaching, learning, and research environment. This review and revision to be completed in advance of the start of the 2011/12 academic year.

    a) In the case of service staff (administrative, technical, professional, library, computing, general operative and craftworkers) the review and implementation will include –An increase in the working week with a view to extending the working day.
    – a commitment to implement the time and attendance system
    – reform of the current flexible working hours scheme to include eligibility, leave and appointments, etc
    – consolidation of the overtime ban
    – review of redeployment procedures
    – annualisation of leave and review of “closed days “
    – commitment to flexibility within and between departments/units
    – unified technical and administrative structures at school and college level
    – introduction of a performance management system (see below)
    – working with and alongside private contractors

    b) In relation to academic contracts this review will include

    Attendance – there shall be a requirement to be in attendance at the university during the normal working week and for the duration of the college year which is 12 consecutive calendar months.

    Tenure – tenure is to be consistent with the established corpus of employment law. In this context tenure refers to the duration of the contract.

    Duties – duties encompass the three key areas of academic work – Teaching, Research and Contribution to the institution, the academic’s discipline and the wider community served by the university.

    Flexibility and cooperation – staff will agree to flexibility and efficiency in the discharge of responsibilities; to provision for change of duties (subject to reasonable capacity to exercise the new duties); and a requirement to co-operate with management of the university in pursuit of the university’s plans, goals and objectives. Such co-operation will encompass a requirement to supply relevant data to management.

    Professional development – opportunities will be available to staff and the contract will require staff to undertake such development including participation in the university’s Performance Management and Development programme which may be developed and amended in response to business needs.

    Academic Freedom – it will be acknowledged that the freedoms contained within Section 14 of the Universities Act, 1997 are to be exercised within the context of the framework of obligations set out in the contract and they will be recorded along with other leaves.

    Annual Leave – the time at which leave is taken is at the discretion of the university and all leave must be applied for and approved in advance.

    Discipline / Dismissal – clarification that the University shall have the power to impose disciplinary sanctions up to and including the termination of appointment in accordance with such procedures as established from time to time and subject to any applicable employment legislation.

    Development of redundancy procedures as required by the Universities Act.

    Review of ill-health leave an its recording – i.e. Time and Attendance.

    Review of Procedures relation to examinations and markings for all staff.

    5. The Development and Implementation of a Performance Appraisal System.

    This Performance Appraisal System will be at the heart of a high performing culture and staff who do not have a satisfactory rating in the P.A.S. will not be able to access:

     Promotions/Re-grading
     Incremental Progression
     Flexi-time
     Sabbatical Leave
     Private Consultancy Work
     The Triennial Grant
     Training and development other than as prescribed to address the performance deficit including further and higher education.

    In the case of academic staff, targets will be delivered from the academic activity profiles and the workload models currently being developed and will include student evaluations of teachers.
    In the case of other staff, targets will be derived from Competency Frameworks and K.P.I.s which will be developed for individuals and units.

  3. Al Says:

    Tip of the hat again!!!
    Why isnt this showing up on the broadsheet media…

  4. Simon Woodworth Says:

    I wonder about media coverage of the whole third level sector. Two or three times Philip Boucher – Hayes referred to “work – shy academics” on Drivetime today, as he did on his twitter feed. I’m not sure if he’s quoting the Hunt report or if this is his personal opinion. However, comments from RTE on public sector pay are becoming hard to stomach. For the record, its 2310 now and I’m still working, as are some of my colleagues I’m sure. As for the extra hour per week, I’ve already volunatarily taken on two extra teaching hours as our tutors’ budget was cut.


  5. […] spells out what the agreement means in a post from the start of the month which you can read here. You can read Paddy Healy’s collection of material on the subject, including his own pieces […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: