A faction within the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has urged members to follow the example of the other main secondary teachers' union and vote against working additional hours.
Last week the Association of Secondary Teachers' in Ireland (ASTI) voted to withdraw additional so-called Croke Park hours, raising the prospect of pay freezes and school closures.
The TUI is currently holding a ballot on a deal it secured with the Department of Education on these and related issues.
The union’s executive has urged members to vote “Yes” to the agreement which, it says, provides concessions and stepping stones for progress on workload, terms and conditions and bureaucracy.
At a press conference on Monday, however, a group calling itself the “TUI grassroots campaign” said members must send a clear message to the Government and vote to end the additional hours.
‘Groundswell of opposition’
Eddie Conlon said the group represented at least 10 of the union's 60 branches and insisted there was a groundswell of opposition to working additional hours.
“The Lansdowne Road Agreement is creaking at the edges,” he said. “The ASTI result is a further nail in its coffin. TUI must add to this pressure and force the new Government, perhaps the weakest in the history of the State, to scrap the agreement and the additional hours.”
The department has warned that teachers risk losing up to €31,000 over the next four years by voting to withdraw.
It has also warned that additional consequences may include reduced access to permanency for temporary teachers and the loss of protection against redundancy.
Audrey Cepeda, a member of the grassroots campaign, said TUI members should not be intimidated by the warnings.
She said members had been told time and again by the union’s leadership that these additional hours were a temporary arrangement.
“Now, we will be stuck with them. The ASTI vote shows the depth of feeling against these hours. We should now join with the ASTI in withdrawing these hours from next September,” she said.
Gerry Farrelly, chair of the TUI's Dublin colleges branch and a member of the grassroots campaign, said there was also growing opposition to additional teaching hours among lecturers.
“The extra two teaching hours per week imposed on members in institutes of technology have had a devastating impact on their workloads, increased staff stress and made it impossible to deliver a high quality service to students.”
The TUI’s leadership, however, says the deal it secured with the department gives teachers greater autonomy in how they use additional hours.
In addition, the number of additional teaching hours among college lecturers will reduce to one per week as an initial measure.
A vote in favour of the deal would also protect members’ terms and conditions and provide a pathway to pay equalisation.
"The proposed agreement provides tangible concessions with additional stepping stones for further progress on workload, terms and conditions, bureaucracy and professional autonomy," said the union's president Gerry Quinn and general secretary John MacGabhann, in a joint statement to members.
The executive has also called for a “yes” vote in a concurrent ballot on industrial action, in the event that members reject the deal.
It has requested this vote on the basis the union will need a mandate to withdraw from productivity measures provided since the Croke Park Agreement if the new deal if rejected.