19/10/2001

Northern Ireland Equality Challenge Unit launched

Alan Shannon, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Employment and Learning, has launched the Northern Ireland Equality Challenge Unit.

It is hoped that the Unit, which has been set up within the UK to support the work of Higher Education Institutions in improving equal opportunities, will make a significant contribution in achieving equal opportunities for all who work in higher education.

Speaking at the launch of the Unit, the Permanent Secretary said: "While pay and conditions for staff in higher education are matters for the employers to determine in negotiation with staff representatives, Government believes that people doing work of equal value should receive equal pay, which is a statutory obligation.

"My Department has identified equality of opportunity as a key priority. Over the next three years we have allocated additional funding to the Higher Education sector. This funding will reward and develop staff and assist in the promotion of Equality of Opportunity by developing equal opportunity targets with programmes to implement good practice throughout an institution."

The ECU will work closely with heads of institutions, governing bodies, the 10 higher education recognised trade unions, as well as the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, in achieving its goals. (MB)

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