TUI threatens strike over summer courses in further education
Emergency motion instructs union to protect teachers’ terms and conditions
TUI president Gerard Craughwell. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Teachers in the further education sector have threatened industrial action in response to the proposal from Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn that courses would be provided throughout the summer.
Speaking on the closing day of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland conference in Kilkenny, the union’s president Gerard Craughwell received a sharp rebuke from delegates when he suggested there may be positives in the Minister’s proposals on further education, and that teachers should hear what is on offer.
An emergency motion was passed instructing the union “to protect members’ terms and conditions, including the agreed academic calendars, by all means including industrial action up to and including strike action”.
Those behind the motion expressed concern that if they refused to teach additional summer weeks, private educational contractors could be brought in to publicly funded further education colleges in their place.
Some delegates reacted angrily as Mr Craughwell said he had no objection to the Minister offering additional jobs, through negotiation. “We should not close the door to that,” he said.
The Irish Times reported yesterday that Mr Quinn told teachers in his address on Wednesday they would “have to work” during the summer. However, the Minister told RT É that he had in fact outlined his plans to merge further education with training services that already operated on a year-round basis.
“I was indicating to them that this was a challenge that we faced. I never said that they would have to work 52 weeks of the year.”
Mr Quinn also denied teachers were not consulted on the proposed changes, noting there were three members on the board of Solas, the newly merged training agency, from the further education sector.
Asked about the description of the delegates’ reaction as “stunned silence”, the Minister replied: “They didn’t strike me as being particularly stunned. They were very quiet because they didn’t want to repeat or follow the road the ASTI took the previous day.”
Yesterday, however, TUI delegates were in no mood for conciliation. Teacher Tom Creedon said the Minister had been provocative in his choice of words. “He said the further education sector has to rebuild brick by brick and that we have to park practices of the past. Let’s have people work as summer teachers? No,” he said to loud applause.
Sean Roberts from Cork city said there was a huge difference between further education and training, but Mr Quinn did not seem to understand this. “Further education is an academic year and we often take vulnerable students who have been let down, whereas Fás offers 10-week courses: the Minister needs to learn the difference.”