Government yet to legislate for teacher pay cuts if unions reject Croke Park deal
Minister for Education jeered and heckled during speech to INTO conference
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn is 'red carded' at the INTO conference in Cork this morning. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn today insisted the Government has not made any preparations to legislate for pay cuts among teachers if the Croke Park II agreement is rejected by unions.
Speaking after addressing the INTO annual congress in Cork where he was repeatedly heckled and jeered by delegates, Mr Quinn was asked what would happen if the INTO followed the ASTI and TUI in rejecting the Croke Park II proposals on public service reform.
He said the Government is not making any preparations in the event of a No vote. "We're waiting to see what the result is. A lot of work has gone into Croke Park II and let's see what the response of the 300,000 public sectors work is before we decide what the next step is."
Mr Quinn said that while union executives and delegates may reject Croke Park II, it was ultimately a matter for each individual union member to decide on the privacy of their home and he urged them to remember who perilous Ireland's financial position was two years ago.
"Twenty five months ago, this country was on the verge of a precipe, we virtually tipped over it. We couldn't borrow money at any reasonable rate. Every public servant including myself are being paid on money borrowed on behalf of the citizens of this republic.
"We have to find a way of reducing that cost and recovering our economic sovereignty and we're doing that slowly but surely - it's not about teachers, it's not about nruses, it's not about guards, it's about public pay," he told a press briefing following his address to congress.
In his address, Mr Quinn moved to reassure primary teachers about the future of smaller schools amid concerns that a Value for Money report commissioned by the previous government would cast a doubt over the viability of schools with three teachers or fewer.
Mr Quinn said the VFM review, which he will bring to Cabinet shortly, does recommend the establishment of a national policy that recognises the four teacher school as the optimum minimum size.
"But I want to stress this, this does not mean that we will be forcibly closing down every one, two and three teacher school.There is and will continue to be a need for small schools to exist in rural and isolated communities," he said.
Mr Quinn said such a national policy will mean that over time, any reconfiguration of schools would be guided by that optimum minimum size and he hoped the publication of the VFM would further discussion to ensure all rural communities are served by viable schools.
INTO president Anne Fay had to plead on a number of occasions with delegates to allow Mr Quinn finish his speech as they jeered and repeatedly waved red cards outlining cuts to education throughout his address.