University is threatened with legal action over staff election

Ulster University lecturer Goretti Horgan.
Ulster University lecturer Goretti Horgan.

A trade union which represents academics, lecturers and other university and college staff across the UK has threatened to take legal action against Ulster University over what it claims is “discrimination” against one of its activists.

The University and College Union (UCU) has said legal action “could be taken” against the university after Goretti Horgan was barred from standing in the University Council elections.

Ms Horgan, a lecturer in social policy at the university’s Jordanstown campus, claims her application to stand for election as a staff representative on the body which oversees and scrutinises the university’s affairs was rejected on the basis of her trade union activities.

She says she was told her engagement for UCU in the university’s Joint Union Consultative Negotiating Committee (JUCNC) constituted a conflict of interest.

“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,” she said.

“I am staggered and upset this was used to exclude me from the election process.”

Branding Ms Horgan’s treatment “blatant discrimination”, UCU Northern Ireland official Katharine Clarke said 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.

Responding to the claim of discrimination, a spokesperson for Ulster University said: “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.”