Irish Teachers Ready To Strike Over Pay

ASTI members with their banner on last February’s march in Dublin against paying for the bankers’ crisis
ASTI members with their banner on last February’s march in Dublin against paying for the bankers’ crisis

17,000 secondary school teachers are set to go on strike over the Irish government’s plans to cut their pay and allowances.

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland said it will pursue industrial action after its members rejected the Haddington Road pay deal for a second time.

The union originally rejected the Haddington Road deal, but agreed to hold a ballot after other unions later voted to accept it.

A union press statement on Friday said: ‘The ASTI – which represents 17,000 second-level teachers – has voted to reject the Haddington Road Agreement by 63% to 37% per cent.’

Speaking about the outcome of the ballot, ASTI General Secretary Pat King said: ‘Teachers’ message today is that they have given enough.

‘All second-level teachers are delivering more with far less resources at a time when their pay has been cut significantly and their working conditions have greatly disimproved.

‘The Haddington Road Agreement is a step too far.

‘Second-level schools are at the tipping point, having been stripped of key supports and personnel.

‘Young people’s education has been diminished and their futures compromised. Haddington Road means taking more from education and from teachers.’

In a simultaneous ballot on industrial action, ASTI members voted by 65% to 35% in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action, in response to the government’s decision to breach the Croke Park Agreement and impose draconian FEMPI legislation.

King added: ‘Teachers are reluctant to take industrial action.

‘However, the depth of feeling amongst ASTI members is evidenced in the ballot result on industrial action and this will be considered by ASTI Standing Committee at a meeting on Monday morning.’

ASTI Standing Committee will meet today, Monday, September 23rd to consider the ballot outcomes.

One of Ireland’s biggest unions, SIPTU said on Friday that proposed cutbacks in the education sector should be restricted to reducing the public funds which are provided to subsidise fee-paying private schools.

SIPTU Dublin District Council chairperson, Jack McGinley, said: ‘We understand that Department of Education officials have drawn up a comprehensive list of areas in which savings can be applied, and how much must be saved in each area, unless the education budget is supplemented for 2014.

‘In SIPTU’s view any cuts should be restricted to reducing the allocation of public funds to the private fee paying school sector.

‘Making a cut of between 40 million and 50 million euros in private school funding would bring greater equality to the education sector.

‘This reduction in funding would begin to redress the imbalance and inequalities in the primary, secondary and third level education sectors which cannot afford any further attrition on their current funding.’

McGinley added: ‘SIPTU notes that the 50 plus fee charging schools currently have approximately 80 million euros available to them above that which is available to similarly sized free schools.

‘SIPTU is also of the view that any cuts in funding should have regard to the size and religious ethos of schools.

‘In the end, education should be a social good available to all and not a commodity to be traded and looked after by hierarchies and elites.

‘SIPTU calls on Minister Quinn and his Department to begin the journey to bring true equality to Irish education.’

l The Fine Gael-Labour coalition government must use Budget 2014 to stimulate demand and inject life into the economy, as new data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) confirms continued stagnation and a lack of growth, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said on Thursday.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with government ministers on the Congress pre-Budget Submission, ICTU General Secretary David Begg said: ‘We shouldn’t delude ourselves over a few blips in the latest CSO data.

‘The underlying, core figures point to more of the same, particularly with regard to the domestic economy, with domestic demand down again (1.1%), along with personal expenditure (1.3%). In addition GDP is also down (1.2%).

‘The overall picture is depressingly familiar.

‘We are now in the sixth year of stagnation and after six years of doing the same thing, it is clear that we need a dramatic change of course if we are to pull the economy and wider society out of the mire.

‘We need a raft of growth and job-friendly measures included in Budget 2014. We need to stop doing further harm and to invest and inject life into the economy in order to stimulate demand and create jobs,’ Begg said.

He said that Congress was calling for the full use of the proceeds of the Promissory Note Deal to reduce the size of the planned budget adjustment; a stimulus package of 4.5 billion euros over the next two years and tax increases targeted at the wealthiest sectors of society.

SIPTU also stated that the Quarterly National Accounts figures published on Thursday confirm that the economy grew by a disappointing 0.4% between April and June this year and only serve to emphasise the need for a major economic stimulus.

SIPTU economist, Marie Sherlock, said: ‘The economic growth in the second quarter, indicated by the new figures, must be welcomed.

However, it falls far short of anything resembling a real recovery.

‘With the very clear exception of exports which recorded the largest quarterly increase since 2008 and are now at an all-time high, the latest statistics confirm that the Irish domestic economy remains in stagnation.

‘The second quarter performance fails to fully reverse the sharp decline in the first quarter of this year when we saw domestic consumption experience its single largest drop since early 2009.

‘It is likely to be well into the autumn months before the fall in domestic consumption will be fully reversed and before the domestic economy will start expanding in net terms this year.’

She added: ‘The figures clearly demonstrate the on-going fragility in the economy and cast a sharp spotlight on the need to strengthen and not further deflate economic activity in the forthcoming budget.

‘The government would do well to heed the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s proposals which include implementing a fiscal consolidation of two billion euros, an investment stimulus of 4.5 billion euros over the next two years – financed in a manner that limits the cost to the taxpayer – and targeted tax increases for the highest earners.’

• Meanwhile, SIPTU has condemned the decision of the owners of Andersen Ireland Ltd to seek a court appointed liquidator.

The move is expected to result in a total wind-up of the custom jewelry manufacturer based in Rathkeale, Co. Limerick, with the loss of over 160 jobs.

SIPTU Organiser, Denis Gormalley, said on Wednesday: ‘The liquidator was appointed this afternoon.

‘This act by the company could well eliminate the possibility of finding new owners for the business and the possibility of maintaining jobs.

‘SIPTU condemns this move as unacceptable as prospective new owners were engaged in discussions on the possibility of keeping the business operating as a going concern.’

He added: ‘This company’s action also prevents creditors from having their say at a creditors’ meeting scheduled to take place next Monday (23rd September).

‘The unanswered question is why the company has acted in this manner.

‘The last remaining hope for the workers rests with the Ulster Bank, the company’s main business creditor.

‘Only Ulster Bank can act to prevent the liquidation of the company’s assets and the expected loss of over 160 jobs.

‘Ulster Bank must act to provide the workers and their families with some hope in this situation.’

SIPTU, which campaigned for home help workers, on Wednesday welcomed a Labour Court recommendation that home helps employed by the Health Service Executive should be guaranteed at least seven hours’ work per week under a new annualised hour arrangement.

Up to now, some home help workers have had their hours reduced due to cut backs, while others have been given no work at all.

Under the recommendations issued on Wednesday, Labour Court Chairperson Caroline Jenkinson said the HSE will gradually increase the number of guaranteed weekly hours to ten.

Those who do not wish to operate under the annualised hours scheme may receive compensation of between 2,000 euros and 3,000 euros.