Teacher unions propose deal to suspend industrial action

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan objects to disruption as bargaining chip in talks

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan: Welcomed the official launch of jct.ie, an online support service for teachers undertaking the new junior cycle framework. Photograph: The Irish Times

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan: Welcomed the official launch of jct.ie, an online support service for teachers undertaking the new junior cycle framework. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The two unions representing secondary teachers have proposed suspending their industrial action over junior cycle reforms if implementation is halted.

However, the gesture has been rebuffed by Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan who objects to industrial action being used as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

The offer of a possible suspension of industrial action came after Ms O’Sullivan had already begun briefing school managers over how she planned to roll out the reforms without the teachers’ agreement.

In a letter sent to the Minister on Monday, the TUI and ASTI insisted proposals advanced by talks chairman Dr Pauric Travers were designed as a basis for further negotiations rather than a deal per se.

The unions also defend their decision not to put the plan to a ballot of their members, saying it was “an incomplete document” in the absence of agreement on resourcing and other key issues of concern.

In response, the Minister said she welcomed the unions had indicated “a willingness to consider suspending” their industrial action.

However, she said Dr Travers’s document was designed as the basis for an agreement – after extensive talks already over several weeks – and not the basis for further “intensive negotiation” as sought by the unions.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, Ms O’Sullivan urged the unions to reconsider the proposals tabled by Dr Travers, “accept them as the basis for agreement, and immediately suspend all industrial action. In the event of this, I will be open to further discussions on resources and implementation of junior cycle reform, having regard to the framework proposed.”

In their letter, the unions say: “There is clear recognition by all sides that the document prepared by Dr Travers does not constitute a complete resolution. In fact, that is explicitly recognised within the document.

“In the absence of further intensive discussions regarding resources, assessment and other identified issues, the document will remain incomplete. An incomplete document cannot be put to a ballot of our members.

“In the interests of moving matters forward, it would be of benefit if the department were to indicate that it would suspend further implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle (meetings, planning, CPD [continuing professional development], etc) were the unions to suspend industrial action. We put this to you in good faith as, at this critical juncture, it would be appropriate for both parties to create a clear opportunity for discussions by means of a mutual suspension of actions.”

‘Way forward’

In an introduction to the plan Junior Cycle Reform: A Way Forward, Dr Travers sets out what he calls “a draft agreement which it is hoped captures the essential elements of a reformed Junior Cycle”.

He describes the document as both the “basis of a way forward” and “the basis for an honourable settlement”.

It is acknowledged under the plan that the reforms “will require significant resources including provision of adequate teacher time”.

However, Dr Travers had envisaged that negotiations on resources would take place only once there was agreement in principle on the nature of the reforms.

Meanwhile, the Minister welcomed the official launch of jct.ie, an online support service for teachers undertaking the new junior cycle framework.

The site include tools and resources for the classroom, links to presentations and information on training courses.