Breathnach urges calm consideration of issues

 

THE Minister for Education has called for "calm and serious consideration" of the issues which led to the rejection of the £66.7 million pay and conditions package by the Teachers' Union of Ireland.

Addressing delegates at the union's annual congress in Cork yesterday, Ms Breathnach recognised the "difficult" industrial relations situation which the rejection of the package had created and invited the union to return to negotiations chaired by a facilitator.

The Minister was greeted with muted applause by delegates, who had spent the morning in a special session discussing the rejected package. Delegates empowered the executive committee to renegotiate the package to address the areas of difficulty, including the use of industrial action to achieve the union's aims.

"I know there are aspects of the proposed agreement which have given rise to serious disquiet among you," Ms Breathnach said.

For example, concerns have been expressed about the operation of the early retirement provisions and about the fairness of the promotion procedures. I am prepared to address these and other concerns."

The Minister has already indicated her willingness to apply appropriate increases, possibly in the region of 3 per cent, to teachers already on pension .

In his response to the Minister's speech, TUI president Mr Tony Deffely warned that she risked the creation of a "mean spirited" attitude in previously open teachers, because of her insistence on productivity increases linked to the pay and conditions package.

"I am not happy that this sort of productivity bargaining should find its place in education," he said, and asked if the extra hours teachers spent on in service training and extra curricular activities "signify nothing in terms of productivity".

He was supported by the Fianna Fail spokesman on education, Mr Micheal Martin TD. "Teachers feel they have been putting in the extra hours and they have not been, recognised, and I feel the Minister has underestimated this issue."

He was also critical of the Minister's response to the controversy over mislaid Leaving Certificate craftwork which is to be the subject of a report by Price Waterhouse.

Ms Breathnach said in the absence of a component would be highlighted and addressed through computer checks and also highlighted in a statement of information to the school.

The Minister also moved to defuse a potential dispute in third level colleges which could affect up to 50,000 students during the next academic year. On Tuesday, third level delegates voted to ballot their members on strike action in RTCs and the Dublin Institute of Technology over the promotion of college teachers and the filling of Lecturer 2 posts. Ms Breathnach said yesterday colleges will be informed that they may proceed to promote eligible college teachers' and fill L2 posts as earlier agreed.