Teacher unions recommend rejection of Croke Park deal

Shay Cody, chairman of Ictu Public Services Committee, with the draft agreement following talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement this week. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Shay Cody, chairman of Ictu Public Services Committee, with the draft agreement following talks on an extension to the Croke Park agreement this week. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 00:00

Two teaching unions have now joined the body representing senior civil servant in recommending to members that they reject the proposed new Croke Park agreement in a forthcoming ballot.

The Teachers Union of Ireland and the Irish Federation of University Teachers both said tonight they would recommend rejection. The executive of the Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants also decided to oppose the package at a meeting yesterday.

Following a nine-hour meeting today, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation has deferred a decision on whether or not to recommend the proposals to its 32,000 members. It said further meetings of the executive will be held to examine specific proposals in greater detail.

In a statement, the INTO said there had been "significant anger" at the Government at today's meeting for "breaching the terms of the existing agreement and conducting negotiations against the threat of imposed pay cuts".

"Grave concern was expressed at the significant financial impact on those above €65,000, many of whom are school leaders who are also grappling with already expanded responsibilities and stressful workloads."

The INTO executive will reconvene on Friday.

Separately, the Civil Public and Services Union (CPSU) said today it would engage its members in a “discussion about industrial action” following its walk-out from the Croke Park talks at the weekend.

At a campaign launch today, secretary general Eoin Ronayne said there would be a meeting of the executive tomorrow in which the next move would be considered.

A recommendation to reject the latest Croke Park deal agreed on Sunday would be the most likely outcome, he said.

Mr Ronayne was speaking at a press conference to launch the union’s ‘Nothing More To Give’ campaign in which three of its members offered their own financial stories to illustrate why there is a mood of despondency.

“Yes of course there is going to be a discussion about industrial action and how you might go about that. I think it would be remiss of me to not stress the level of anger and upset and fear that is out there,” he said.

“I wouldn’t rule it out…what type of industrial action, when it would be taken, is up to a debate at a later date.”

The CPSU, which represents the lowest clerical grades in the public sector, says the bone of contention over the weekend was the government’s failure to renegotiate the pay and conditions of staff members who were on €35,000 or less.

The vast majority of its members are low paid and were no longer willing or able to absorb damaging austerity measures, Mr Ronayne said.

“[There is] this view that in many ways public servants have a gilt-edged environment.

“We are not in the same league as politicians; we are not in the league of secretary generals; we are not in the league of those who earn extraordinary sums of money and who can endure cuts and yet still have extraordinary sums of money to spend.”

At yesterday’s launch, the CPSU said that newly agreed measures – in particular, a change to flexi-time and outsourcing policies – would inflict further financial burdens.

The majority of its members begin at €23,000 per year and would only reach the peak of their scale, €38,000, after 18 years.

Conor McDonald, a 34-year-old father-of-two working in the Revenue Commissioners, one of the members who volunteered to share his story, said he brings home €430 per week after tax but argued that changes to flexi-time arrangements at local level were punitive.

“One of the things that attracted me to the public service was the actual flexi-time,” he said.

“The grandparents of the kids spend a lot of time looking after them [but] if they have something on, it’s necessary for me to have an element of flexibility.”