Adult education tutors protest in long-running dispute over public service contract

Pensions, pay scales and prior service at issue as tutors wait since March 2020 for Department’s proposals

Tutors from the colleges of further education run by the City of Dublin Education and Training Board protested outside the offices of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on Friday over the delay in making an offer to them regarding their longstanding claim for public service contracts.

The dispute, which involves around 3,500 tutors from across the country, has been before both Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court with the latter recommending in March 2020 that the Department of Education assess how much of a budget it could provide to address the tutors’ claim and then make an offer regarding staffing and pay levels based on that budget.

In July of this year, says James O’Keeffe, one of the small number to protest on Friday, the Department of Education said it would make forward its proposals by the end of September but the tutors were then told they had to be forwarded to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for approval.

“And so we’re still waiting for them,” says Mr O’Keeffe. “I mean, we know how slowly those wheels grind but that’s why we are here. We’re fed up. We’ve been waiting years for something to happen. But we are still here.”

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Mr O’Keeffe acknowledges that the hourly rate the tutors are on, at a little over €40, would be regarded by many as good but, he says, they are not paid for periods between classes, for preparatory or other work.

“We are not in the classroom during Christmas holidays, Easter holidays, summer holidays, midterm and so we have to go down to social welfare office and sign on for the dole. We don’t get increments, so that’s another issue, we want to see our years of service recognised.

“We’re public servants. We’re paid from the public purse. But we don’t have public service contracts.

“I do 16 hours in the classroom each week and another 11 coordinating courses, I am a full-time worker, I work full-time for the ETB, I’ve been doing that for 15 years. Like everyone else here, I just want that recognised,” he says.

Dr Camilla Fitzsimons of the Adult and Community Education department at Maynooth University said she had attended the protest to support the tutors, many of whom she had lectured when they were studying to qualify for the job.

“We would graduate anything between 25 and 30 people a year and we have to warn them when they come onto our courses about the precarious nature of the working environment that they’re going into.

“We have people who are paying often large sums of money from their own pocket to become registered with the Teaching Council as qualified adult educators, and then they go off into this environment that is completely different in many respects to what secondary school and primary school teachers go into.

“We’re talking about training people for very important vocational work,” she said. “It’s time to it’s time to sort that out.” The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform was asked for a response.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Industry and Employment Correspondent at The Irish Times