‘Suspend Magee day care closure’ Unison
THE Unison trade union says the University of Ulster should “immediately suspend its decision to close the day care crèche facilities at the Jordanstown and Magee campuses” and engage in talks with parents and staff.
Trade union organiser Nuala Conlon made the call after a meeting attended by the University, parents, staff, trade union officials and members of the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) Committee on Wednesday (March 20).
Last month the University said it would close childcare facilities used by 23 students in the Magee and Jordanstown campuses in July because - it claimed - they run a £114k annual deficit and are ‘no longer economically viable.’
“There are a number of problems with the University’s decision and the parents and staff are the ones suffering as a result”, said Ms Conlon.
An EU grant of £193,500 for construction of the facility was received in 1999 but no EU funding has been received since then.
“The Magee crèche was funded through a European Regional Development Fund Training Infrastructure Measure in May 1999,” Ms Conlon explained.
“Despite the terms of this measure clearly stating that the building must be used for the purpose stipulated when funding was applied for, the University have now taken the decision to close it,” she added.
She claimed the University failed to appoint a manager for the crèche facilities despite a review in 2009.
“The University have also said there will not be an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) despite the number of international students and single parents who will experience hardship as a result of closure,” she claimed.
“It seems the University is determined to abolish facilities even when confronted with evidence that contradicts their justifications.”
Universities Minister Dr Stephen Farry has said the decision was taken with the support of the Student Union, which he said, has proposed monies saved by the closure be spent helping students with childcare costs.
He also said parents were informed of the closure by letter after trade unions and staff were consulted.
The University of Ulster told the DEL Minister the Magee facility alone has recorded a deficit every year since 2003/4.
But Ms Conlon countered: “The deficit is decreasing; the crèches have waiting lists and parents and staff have drafted a number of proposals to not only save the crèche but bring a profit to the University.
“We ask, that instead of spending £50k on paving a car park on the Jordanstown campus, that the University consults with parents and staff, listens to their ideas and pledges to save a service that is essential for students.”
The Sentinel asked the University how much the Magee day care facility is bringing in through fees on an annual basis and how much it was charging the day care facility in rent and other overheads.
The Sentinel also asked if the original grant of EU funding for the day care facility included a clause saying it had to be used for child care purposes for at least twenty years.
The paper also asked how the move tallied with the ‘One Plan’ vision of expansion at Magee over the coming years. The University has not responded.
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