Common Room members celebrate staff as forced redundancy looms

Despite earlier indications that they might be redeployed, staff members face forced redundancy just days before Christmas.

Common Room members gather to celebrate the Club's history as the 21st December deadline to vacate looms.

Members of the UCD Common Room Club gathered in the club tonight to celebrate its 43-year history, ahead of the 21st December deadline for its closure.

Speaking to a packed room on Wednesday evening, Chairman of the Club’s committee, Prof Wolfgang Marx thanked attendees for their “solidarity with the Common Room”. He quoted Senior Lecturer and former-Head of the School of Computer Science John Dunnion in his description of the Common Room: “the Common Room is three things: one is the space, another one is the legal entity, and the third one, and that’s the most important one, is the collective…the group of people that make up the Common Room. It’s all of you.”

“And that is something that nobody can take away, of course, and we are trying…to find ways of keeping that going, the community that forms the Common Room and has done so, has grown for a very long time.”

Acknowledging that whatever form the Common Room Club takes after 21st December, Marx stated that “we are very happy to have had great staff at all times…the problem, of course, is whatever we do next, we will not have the space and we will not be able to keep our staff and we have to let our staff go.” Attendees applauded in agreement when Marx stated that the situation “breaks our hearts.”

The Club has 3 staff members who will be made redundant as part of the its closure. Attendees tonight heard of financial contributions made by members towards a fund for the Club’s staff. 

In an email to The University Observer, Marx stated that President Deeks, “as well as the Director of UCDHR committed themselves at the end of July to investigating options to find alternative employment in UCD…[for staff of the Common Room Club]. However, virtually nothing has happened since then – no employee has ever been contacted by HR over the last four months, despite UCD not only having committed itself to doing so but also being obliged to do it on the basis of ‘Transfer of Undertakings’ regulations.”

At the gathering, the full-time barman and two part-time staff members were presented with scrolls of a poem written about the Common Room by renowned playwright Frank McGuinness. 

In a recent interview with The University Observer, UCD President Andrew Deeks stated that while he would be “happy to engage with them” in relation to transitional issues such as that of the Common Room’s employees, this would only happen “once they realise that this is absolutely inevitable and there’s no chance that this decision is going to be reversed.”

Current and retired staff and members also heard from Prof Michael Laffan, a retired Historian from UCD’s School of History and former-Chairman of the Club’s Committee, who told the room said that “the Common Room goes back 43 years – I go back only 42.”

“I was appointed in 1976 – so I’m a blow-in, the late-comer – but since then I’ve tried to make up for that lost time. I think that I’ve spent more time in this Common Room than anybody else here.”

“The impending closure of the Common Room provokes anger and resentment, rage. It’s a bullying action taken by an insensitive and self-destructive President. We should not forget what he has done, let him go down in infamy. Let us inform the world of what he has done.”

“Tonight is not an occasion for recrimination. It’s a time to celebrate the Common Room, a valued and loved UCD institution, and also a time to acknowledge those who have worked here behind the bar or in other categories over the decades.” 

The Common Room’s closure in favour of the University Club has made national headlines, with The Irish Times and current-affairs magazine The Phoenix both reporting on it in recent times. An article published in The Phoenix described the University Club as President Deeks’ “Mar-a-Lago”, referring to the resort in Palm Beach, Florida, which is owned by US President Donald Trump.

Earlier this semester, members of the Common Room launched a campaign to save the Club from closure. This saw #SaveOurCommonRoom emblazoned in large black letters facing out of the windows of the Club’s premises in Block A on the First Floor of the Newman Building. An online petition which urged President Deeks to “announce an indefinite postponement of the closure of the Common Room” and called for a boycott of the controversial University Club has garnered over 700 signatures. An earlier, written petition had previously reached 500 signatures.