THE TEACHERS’ UNION OF IRELAND (TUI) has voted in favour of a motion that instructs its executive committee not to re-enter talks on Croke Park 2 with either government or management and to reject any imposition of proposals on its memebers.
One of the emergency motions voted on today instructs the executive committee to withdraw from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) if attempts are made to impose proposals on members.
In the event that the government or ICTU tries to impose the proposals under the new Croke Park deal on TUI members, the union has voted to ballot for industrial action including strike action.
Over 80 percent of TUI members, made up of post-primary teachers and higher education lecturers, voted to reject the proposals under the new agreement in the union’s first ballot last month.
Today the union proposed that should the government move to impose any change to conditions already rejected by members of TUI in the democratic ballot of members, members will immediately desist from participating in any or all of the following:
Croke Park discussions
School development planning
School self evaluation
Half in/Half out meetings
Any or all teacher-based assessments
Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening Deputy General Secretary of the TUI Annette Dolan said it was now a matter of waiting for the outcome of other ballots to get an overview of members’ opinions.
Quinn is due to speak at the TUI conference in Galway tomorrow and Dolan said she expects he will be “received courteously” by members. She said the union always “made a point of engaging in a dialogue with the minister”.
It is the first completed ballot on the deal.
The TUI represents just under 15,000 second level teachers and lecturers.
Traditionally, if a majority of ICTU unions accept a deal like Croke Park, those who reject it abide by the majority vote.
However, the TUI executive has decided not to be bound by an overall vote in favour.
TUI President Gerard Craughwell said this could pose a huge problem for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions – particularly if other unions opposed to the Croke Park extension plans follow the TUI line and refuse to accept the majority vote.
The proposals in the Croke Park deal are aimed at reducing the public sector pay bill by an additional €1 billion over the next three years.
AMONG the most damaging effects of the cutbacks in education is the casualisation of teaching and lecturing. Ironically, this is exacerbated by the abuse of legislation intended to protect employees against abuse. Many teachers and lecturers are experiencing severe income poverty because they struggle on fixed-term – which is to say temporary – contracts in part-time positions, mere fragments of jobs.
To make matters worse, these teachers and lecturers are routinely jettisoned or have their hours, and pay, reduced from one year to the next, a situation completely at odds with the common yet completely erroneous depiction of public servants as some rare breed of protected species in terms of tenure and job security.
We estimate that 30 per cent of second-level teachers are employed on a part-time basis. Local management has, in some instances, sought to play God by varying the working hours of teachers and lecturers on an arbitrary, whimsical basis.
As if this were not enough, there has been a savage, sustained and disproportionate attack on the pay of new entrants to the teaching profession since 2011.
Newly qualified teachers enter the teaching profession after an unpaid training period of five years, soon to be six at second level. It takes an average of a further five years to secure a level of permanency. Even then, this is very often only permanency in part-time work that sees them, in many instances, earning considerably less than the average industrial wage.
In the wake of the cynical elimination of qualification allowances, a teacher who enters the profession today is automatically
22 per cent down on the 2010 starting salary of a colleague with identical qualifications.
The principled struggle against casualisation and associated pay cuts that the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and other teacher unions are engaged in is one that, in the interests of this country and its young people, must be won.
A race to the bottom eventually impoverishes everybody and deprives the country of one of its most important competitive advantages: a high quality, highly regarded public education system.
TUI’s annual congress this year prioritised the plight of new entrants to the profession, committing the union to campaigning to have the divisive differential in the salaries of teachers doing the same job rescinded. The concerns of new entrants must be afforded priority in negotiations about pay and in any national agreements that may emerge.
Parents and communities also need to be aware that hundreds of teaching posts have been lost as a result of cutbacks in recent years and that the equivalent of a further 700 full-time positions have been taken out of the second-level system this September as a result of a cut to guidance-counselling provision.
Invariably it is vulnerable teachers in fixed-term positions on part-time hours who suffer first when such cuts take effect.
For students and schools, casualisation and cuts create instability. For example, they often result in students being taught by a succession of teachers in a given subject area over the course of the Junior or Leaving Certificate cycles. In terms of consistency of provision, this is undesirable, unacceptable and damaging.
In order to protect our students, our high-quality public education system and the integrity of the profession on which it relies, the TUI is seeking, as a first step, an end to the attrition that is causing casualisation.
We are asking the Department of Education and Skills to work with the education partners to put in place a system whereby teachers have an opportunity to secure sustainable jobs that allow them to develop as professionals and make an even more valuable contribution to the schools and communities that they serve.
Now more than ever, teachers need jobs, not hours.
John MacGabhann is general secretary of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, which represents more than 14,000 teachers and lecturers