Teachers back strike action if pay is cut

INTO, TUI to attend new talks after rejection of Croke Park II deal last month

National teachers have overwhelmingly backed proposals for industrial action in schools, up to and including strikes, if the Government unilaterally cuts their pay.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) said 91 per cent of primary teachers voted in favour of action.

The INTO is the first of the teaching unions to announce the results of ballots on industrial action which were undertaken following the rejection by members of the proposed Croke Park II agreement. Other teaching unions will announce their ballot results early next week.

Sheila Nunan, general secretary of the INTO, said the mandate for industrial action would be used if the Government was to unilaterally cut the pay of teachers. She said teachers had made a very significant contribution to national recovery through working the original Croke Park Agreement and absorbing the impact of education cutbacks.

Ms Nunan said industrial action would be inevitable unless the Government negotiated an alternative to the Croke Park II proposals that were rejected by teachers and other public servants.

The executive of the INTO also decided today to accept the invitation of the Labour Relations Commission to enter new talks on the Government's plans to reduce the public service pay and pensions bill. Last month around 70 per cent of INTO members rejected the proposed Croke Park II agreement.

Ms Nunan said that “since the original Croke Park II proposals were formulated, changes to the promissory note deal and potential changes to the troika repayment schedule “provided the context for a further examination of the financial adjustment required”.

Separately the executive of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) also decided to accept the invitation to the new talks. The union said the decision was taken following detailed discussion and careful consideration in order to best represent the interests of members and to negotiate on their behalf. The TUI annual conference in April had passed a motion that it would not go back into talks with the Government.

TUI President Gerard Craughwell said:"TUI has a range of issues to bring to the table in talks and in particular, will prioritise tackling the casualisation of the teaching and lecturing professions and restoring the pay scales of newly qualified teachers and lecturers. In addition, the (Croke Park II )proposals unfairly targeted teachers and lecturers by reducing the take home pay of our members who earn less than € 65,000. We will not allow teachers and lecturers to be singled out for such unfair targeting."

The central executive council of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland will consider the issue of the proposed new talks on Saturday.

The executive of the Irish Federation of University Teachers is to hold an emergency meeting on Monday morning to determine whether it should accept the invitation to attend the new talks. Sources close to the union suggested that it too was ultimately expected to attend the talks.

Talks between health service unions and public service management are likely to continue over the weekend on proposed revisions to the Croke Park II proposals.

Engagements between management and Siptu, the country’s largest union, are also continuing.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is expected to bring a report to Cabinet on Tuesday on the state of play in the talks between the Labour Relations Commission and various trade unions. The Government is still continuing preparatory work on legislation to secure reductions in the pay bill, including pay cuts, an indefinite freeze on increments and reductions in premium and overtime rates, if there is no agreement with unions.

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