There are times in my job as an MEP when I get to do something very different from the normal run of European Parliament Committees, Socialist and Democrat Group meetings and voting in plenary sessions.
Today was one of these times. I was pleased to attend a joint trade union meeting this afternoon to discuss representation of university support staff. In most universities there are as many employees who carry administrative duties, work in libraries and as laboratory and other kinds of technicians, provide information and computer support and do all the essential jobs in catering, building management and security and cleaning as there are academic staff.
Unfortunately these support staff do not always get the recognition they deserve. The joint trade union meeting today, attended by UNISON, the SIPTU from Ireland and the Danish organisation HK/Stat looked at the main issues of concern.
Chaired by Danish socialist MEP Britta Thomsen, the meeting proved wide ranging in both content and geographical scope. The other two MEPs who attended, in addition to myself, were fellow EPLP member Derek Vaughan from Wales and Irish Labour Party stalwart Proinsias De Rossa.
The unions present were:
UNISON, England – Derek Earnshaw, Leeds University and Jon Richards, UNISON
SIPTU, Ireland – Jack McGinley, Trinity College Dublin and Christine Rowland, SIPTU
HK/Stat, Denmark – Aase Pedersen Rakkolainen, University of Aarhus, Joan Lykkeaa, University of Copenhagen and Hans-Henrik Nielsen, HK/Stat
Also from Denmark were representatives from the AC-group, (Academic-group) – John S. Westensee, University of Aarhus, Signe Osbahr, University of Aarhus, Arne Bækdal Hansen, University of Southern Denmark, Harry Havskum, University of Copenhagen, Poul Petersen, University of Copenhagen and Lone Falsig Hansen, Danish Technical University
One of the unions’ aims is to establish a European network and they are seeking funding for this initiative. They also want support staff included in bids to the EU Research Framework Programme as well as mobility for support staff in addition to academics and students under the Bologna Process.
It was agreed that the union would contact the two relevant Commissioners-Designate, Marie Geoghegan-Quinn from Ireland who will be responsible for Research and Innovation and Hungarian Lazlo Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion), as soon as possible after the confirmation vote on 9 February.
It goes without saying that I, and my ME¨P colleagues, will do all we can to be of assistance.