I have to admit to being somewhat of an industrial dispute ‘voyeur’. Media articles on the most recent incident are excellent learning material for my lectures on ‘employment relations’. Most of my audience are in their late teens/early 20’s with limited work experience and an ideological expectation that all will be well when they enter the world of work. When news reports of the Vita Cortex dispute started to emerge in late December, I was pleased that the universe had, yet again, delivered new learning material. Pleased but not surprised. Every semester delivers new opportunities for learning, particularly since the down-turn in the economy. What is different this time is the length of the dispute, now in its’ 105th day, having spanned the entire semester.
I teach a mixed group of about 700 students, studying commerce, engineering and law. Together we explore the relationship between workers and employers and how that relationship is managed on a day-to-day basis so that organisations can function in a reasonably civilised manner. Sometimes the relationship goes well, to the mutual satisfaction of both parties. Sometimes the relationship breaks down.
The students and I have been following the Vita Cortex dispute closely, to such an extent that some of them suspect I must be related to some of the protesters. We gathered a petition; sent suggestions to the workers for expanding their action; and followed proceedings closely on Facebook (not usually my learning medium of choice). The students engaged with the story on a human level and because they realised that the outcome of this dispute will have far-reaching implications beyond the ‘VC32’.
I sincerely hope the dispute is resolved soon. Not because it ceases to serve my short-term purpose, but because workers should not have to endure what these 32 individuals have endured. It should not be allowed to happen. It has been said that the mark of a society is how it treats its vulnerable members. Including workers facing the prospect of unemployment in that category, reflects poorly on our society of 2012. Very poorly indeed!
Dr Deirdre Curran, a lecturer at NUIG and a Vita Cortex workers supporter writes on day 105, her views are her own