generic serif;”>A motion to reopen the Students’ Union Photocopying Bureau and reinstate staff fired in December failed to pass Council on Thursday 19th January.
The staff who worked in the Bureau were informed of their redundancy on the 7th of December but kept the service open until the end of exams to facilitate students. A press release by the Student Union stated that the service was a “significant liability” and it was estimated that a loss was made of €41,000 in the 2010 calendar year.
A campaign to reinstate the staff and reopen the Photocopying Bureau swiftly began. A petition has been circulated around the campus and currently has over two thousand signatures.
Elizabeth Coote (72), a post-graduate student, worked for the Students’ Union from 1973/74 until 2003 as manageress. She supervised the shops, submitted accounts, took stock and organised the services. When learning of the closure of the Bureau, Coote became involved in the campaign concerned that “a fantastic service for students and academic staff was being shut down and people were losing their jobs.”
The motion, proposed by Karl Gill and seconded by Brian O’Brien, brought before Council on Thursday elected to reinstate fired staff and reopen the Bureau. It stated that it was a vital service for the academic staff and students of UCD and that “the way in which the Union handled the laying off of long serving SU staff members two weeks before Christmas and leaving students … without a decent print service reflects badly on the Union as a whole.”
Gill passed speaking rights to Coote. She spoke most directly to Pat de Brún, stating that she felt strongly that “if [the Union] were in financial difficulties, the college authorities could step in … their financial advisor was on their staff”. In her opinion, de Brún was in a very good position to encourage the University to help them; if he could do this, “[de Brún] would be one of the strongest presidents of the Students’ Union ever”.
De Brún argued against the proposal on the grounds of economic reasons, citing the loss which the service made in recent years and the debt which the Students’ Union was currently in. He stated that the Union faced an “unprecedented and historic crisis” that meant while he gravely regretted the closure of the service and the loss of jobs that if closures like this one did not occur, all jobs would be put at risk. It was “absolutely unfortunate but absolutely necessary”. The proposers defended by saying that the service was “never set up to make profits”.
Only four or five of the representatives present at Council voted in favour of the motion and it was defeated. Mrs. Coote stated that she was “bitterly disappointed” with the result. The Student Union has no immediate plans to reopen the service or return the redundant staff to their positions.
In an interview with the College Tribune, Coote told how on Friday 20th January, she was approached by a class rep who alleged that he would have felt uncomfortable to vote against the crowd. She advised him that the “only thing you’ll have to worry about fear is fear itself” and “there’ll be times when you’ll have to stand up”. He is now helping with the movement.
The campaign is ongoing; there is a sense of strong academic support and it is asked that students continue to support the movement. A meeting will be held on Wednesday 25th January at 1.30 pm outside the administration building. The participants will march “peacefully, calmly” towards the Students’ Union’s offices and lay the signed petitions in front of them.
Elizabeth Coote stated to the Tribune that she feels strongly that “there’s an injustice here … [the issue] needs to be seen and sorted out.”