Belfast Telegraph

Lecturer threatens to sue after she is barred from university elections

By Mark Bain

An Ulster University lecturer has threatened to take legal action against her employers after being barred from standing in elections to its governing body.

The University Council is responsible for oversight of all the institution's affairs.

Ms Goretti Horgan, a long serving UCU activist, had her application to stand for election as a council staff representative rejected on the basis of her trade union activities.

Correspondence from the university's pro-chancellor and chairman of council, John Hunter, claimed that Ms Horgan's engagement for UCU in the university's Joint Union Consultative Negotiating Committee (JUCNC) constituted a conflict of interest.

Ms Horgan, a lecturer in social policy at the university, is being supported by the University and College Union and said: "I was shocked to have my application barred on this basis as I have not acted as a rep on the JUCNC for over three years.

"In any event, I cannot see how representing staff views at the JUCNC conflicts with representing staff views at council. Surely such experience can only enhance my election credentials? I am staggered and upset this was used to exclude me from the election process."

UCU official, Katharine Clarke said barring Ms Horgan appears blatant discrimination.

"The UCU will not stand for this appalling treatment of our representative. If the university does not reverse its decision by the end of the week the union's solicitors will be instructed to commence legal action," she said.

"The position taken by Ulster University is not sustainable. The UCU has three activists who sit on the council at Queen's, where no such conflict of interest has been identified. One wonders what Ulster University Council has to hide that it is so determined to exclude trade unionists from its body."

An Ulster University spokesperson said: "Applicants were asked to submit an expression of interest to be reviewed by the nominations committee and, if deemed to meet the criteria and to have no significant conflict of interest, the applicants will then progress to a staff election for the position. We are currently reviewing this matter following receipt of a complaint from an employee and it would not be appropriate to comment further on individual applicants until this is completed."

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