Trinity has lost its third HR director in nearly as many years. The departure of Kate Malone, one of the College’s most senior officers, comes as Trinity navigates an industrial dispute and threats of strike action.
Malone, who took on the role in October 2015, leaves Trinity in the midst of an ongoing dispute with the College’s three trade unions.
She has been replaced by Antoinette Quinn, a former global director of HR for Aer Rianta. In an email statement to The University Times, Trinity’s Press Officer, Caoimhe Ní Lochlainn, confirmed that Quinn took the role up this month.
Quinn, in Aer Rianta, led HR in Ireland, North America, the Middle East and New Zealand. As Trinity’s HR Director, she’ll be charged with reaching a deal with the trade unions who, for the last several months, have held firm in their opposition to the introduction of temporary contracts and the non-replacement of permanent staff.
Union officials, speaking to The University Times, offered mixed reactions to the departure of Malone, who in her brief tenure in charge of HR presided over one of the most testing periods in recent years in the relationship between Trinity and its staff.
Speaking to The University Times by email, Cieran Perry, the Secretary of Unite in Trinity, said his union “were surprised with the decision of the former HR director to leave her role in Trinity during such a sensitive time in industrial relations in college”.
“I would suspect that any HR professional would have been uncomfortable with some of the decisions made by senior management in college”, he said. “The fact that we have had a number of HR Directors in college over a short period of time may be an indication of a lack of understanding of employee relations in the upper echelons.”
Jack McGinley, the SIPTU representative in Trinity, said he was “unsurprised” at Malone’s departure: “If you don’t play to the executive officer mandate, they don’t want you around.”
McGinley was critical of the slow progress made on issues like employment in the college. This is something, he said, “bureaucracy doesn’t want to see movement on”.
College officials will meet with Unite, SIPTU and the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) this week to discuss the guidance, issued by the government to universities last month and obtained by The University Times, which strongly called on College management to curtail the improper use of temporary contracts. Widely welcomed by the three trade unions, the guidance will prove significant in a sector where the use of temporary contracts – for both academic and administrative staff – has become increasingly commonplace.
Over the last several months, Unite, SIPTU and IFUT have all voted for strike action, although such action never seemed highly likely while negotiations took place in the Workplace Relations Commission between the unions and Trinity.
While a strike was threatened and protests mooted, college hasn’t seemed close to any sort of industrial action in the last few months.
It was reported in March by The University Times that 38 per cent of staff in Trinity are employed on temporary contracts, with non-academic staff consisting of 63 per cent of the temporary staff in the College.
Quinn, as the new Director of HR, will be in charge of leading the College through a period of negotiation of temporary contracts and more flexible working arrangements. While there is little suggestion that employment models in Irish universities could change in the very near future, it’s an issue that’s likely to dominate the agenda of the new HR Director.
Tony McMahon left the role of HR Director in 2015, being replaced by Sean O’Driscoll, who served as interim director of the service.