University lecturers vote to fight any pay cuts

Government risks “destroying the fabric of industrial relations”, AGM in Dublin was told

General secretary of the union, Mike Jennings warned of the consequences of ending Croke Park I before the agreement has run out “in 2014”.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

General secretary of the union, Mike Jennings warned of the consequences of ending Croke Park I before the agreement has run out “in 2014”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Sat, Apr 27, 2013, 17:09

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (Ifut) voted unanimously this afternoon to reject any renegotiation of Croke Park II.

The union, which has over 2,000 members, also agreed to “fight with all its resources” any plans to introduce pay-cuts and “withdraw immediately all concessions” made under Croke Park I.

Chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey was asked to make contact with unions to determine if there was a prospect of a deal on reduction of the Government’s pay bill in the wake of the rejection of Croke Park II. He is expected to report to Government within two weeks.

At their annual conference in Dublin today, Ifut members were outspoken about their opposition to any further pay cuts.

General secretary of the union, Mike Jennings warned of the consequences of ending Croke Park I before the agreement has run out “in 2014”.

“If they go ahead with the least advertised of their threats but the most lethally damaging, which is to break Croke Park I, they will not only have broken one single agreement, they will have destroyed the fabric of industrial relations,” he said.

“I want to appeal to social democratically minded TDs, are you prepared to walk through the lobby, not just to stick it up to public servants but to ditch the whole system of industrial relations?”

He said TDS should “make it clear” they would not do that.

Proposer of the motion, Joe Brady, from University College Dublin, described Croke Park II as “a mugging” which offered “nothing but pain” and “was never fair”.

“This was the equivalent of somebody in a lane holding a knife up to your throat and saying I’m going to take your money however, I’d like to be your friend, so if you give me your money we can both walk away very happily,” he said.

There was no possibility of the deal being tweaked, he said.

In advance of the motion, president of the union Dr Marie Clarke said there were no negotiations about Croke Park II.

“Threats and bullying more accurately describe the so called negotiations,” she said.

Academics had made their contribution having sustained “up to 25 per cent” cuts to salaries under Croke Park I, Dr Clarke said.

She also said her members have no reason to believe the Government would honour any current or future guarantees. And she criticised cuts in funding and the control the Higher Education Authority (HEA). She said the HEA did not “maintain a critical distance between the universities and the State”.

Speaking outside the conference in advance of the vote, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte, who attended in place of Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, said everybody would like to be “in an expanding economy with more social investment”, but the Government was operating “within constraints”.

“We have to find €300 million in the pay roll; I’d prefer we could do that by agreement,” he said.

We were “in sight of the finishing line” and it looked as though we could leave the troika programme by the end of the year.

“It would be a great pity with the finishing line in sight if we were to go backwards now,” he said.

Responding to Dr Clarke’s comments on the HEA, the Minister said universities in Ireland continued to enjoy a “large measure of autonomy”.