UCD’s plan to double the cost of parking permits for next year could lead to another major labour dispute with some of Ireland’s biggest Trade Unions. The University wants to increase their price to €100 for the 2018/2019 academic year, then follow up with further increases to €125 in 2019/2020, and €150 in 2020/2021.

The price rises were set out in the Car Parking and Commuting Management Proposal, September 2017. The draft version is currently open for staff review. The Proposal set out five reasons behind the planned increase. The €50 permit fee was initially agreed on at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) until January 2017 as a ‘temporary measure only.’ UCD has always insisted the €50 fee is too little. The €100 charge for 2018/19 ‘equates to 8 cents per hour for 27 weeks of the year. This compares to 1 Euro per hour in Pay and Display and on-street parking at the N11 Entrance.’

Regarding the Travel Plan, increases in student numbers and a lack of accommodation will make it more difficult for UCD to achieve the Travel Plan’s various aims, so the University Management Team will approve whatever price is necessary to ‘achieve the objectives of car parking and demand management.’ Finally, ‘there has also been correspondence received from Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) with regard to the number of carparks on the campus and the validity of the approximately 600 spaces is in question. This could reduce the number of available spaces on the campus.’

The introduction of paid parking permits to UCD ended up at the Labour Court in August 2015. The main Unions which represent staff in UCD (SIPTU, IFUT, and UNITE), strongly objected to the charge, and argued it reduced the existing terms and conditions of staff employment, and offered nothing in return. Following a number of Conciliation Conferences held under the supervision of LRC, a draft proposal was agreed by both sides, before ultimately being rejected by the Unions. Therefore, the dispute came before the Labour Court in August 2015.

The Unions argued that parking was part of employment contracts, that the charges would not deal with parking issues on campus, and thus had no benefit to staff. UCD argued that access to parking was not a term and condition of employment, the charge was part of its overall parking demand strategy, and that it would help deal with parking issues on campus.

The Court agreed that the deal in principle from the LRC was not unreasonable. It recommended the proposal be expanded ‘to provide in the absence of agreement on all issues in local discussions, the College should develop and put forward for consultation, a comprehensive parking management and commuting policy which should form part of discussions at any resumed conciliation conference.’

As part of this agreement, the UCD Travel Plan was published in December 2016, and a draft UCD Car Parking Management Policy was sent to the Unions. The updated draft was based on a meeting between UCD and the three Unions on the 9thof May 2017. The September 2017 Proposal noted that UCD told the in May that ‘the fee for parking would need to increase.’ It noted the Unions were ‘requested to consider what changes they would suggest to commuting facilities if car parking charges are to rise.’

Per the proposal, 7315 parking permits were sold in Semester One, and 7,076 in Semester Two of 2015/2016. 6883 permits were sold in Semester One, and 7,001 in Semester Two of 2016/2017. 3,630 of these permits were sold by the 10th of September 2016. In contrast, 3,889 permits were sold by the 10th of September 2017, which represents a 7% increase on last year’s sales by that date.

Cian Carton – Editor