TUI plans one-day February strike without ‘meaningful’ talks

Jan O’Sullivan says decision was ‘wholly unjustified and completely disproportionate’

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland  has said it is deeply concerned over what it termed the precarious employment status and income poverty of new and recent entrants to the teaching profession. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland has said it is deeply concerned over what it termed the precarious employment status and income poverty of new and recent entrants to the teaching profession. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Teachers in about 350 secondary schools are planning to stage a one-day strike on Wednesday, February 24th, two days before the general election.

The stoppage would also affect the further and adult education sectors.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said the planned stoppage would go ahead unless “meaningful” progress was made in talks with the Department of Education next week on issues such casualisation and income poverty for teachers.

However, Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan maintained the decision by the TUI to embark on industrial action was “wholly unjustified and completely disproportionate”.

The TUI said it was deeply concerned over what it termed the precarious employment status and income poverty of new and recent entrants to the profession and the continuing, damaging effects of cutbacks on the service provided to students.

The union’s president Gerry Quinn said: “In a national ballot, TUI members in the second level and further/adult education sectors voted by a margin of 89 per cent to engage in a campaign of industrial action to secure resolution to crisis issues.”

If the proposed strike goes ahead, it would affect students mainly in the vocational, community and comprehensive sectors.

Mr Quinn said the TUI would meet next week with the Department of Education “in the hope of developing viable solutions to all of our issues. In the event that sufficient progress is not made, we will take strike action.”

A spokesman for the Minister said the timing of the planned industrial action and the “associated motivations” had to be questioned.

“ This morning the Minister wrote to the TUI offering engagement on a number of issues of mutual concern. It is the Minister’s belief that this engagement should have proceeded without a threat of industrial action. The decision to embark on industrial action is wholly unjustified and completely disproportionate. A strike will only inconvenience students and parents.”

The spokesman said a number of initiatives were already underway which addressed many of the issues raised by the TUI, including:

* an overall increase of €200m in the education budget in 2015 and 2016

* the focusing of this additional investment on the school sector

* the increase in security, especially for new teachers, as a result of the continuing implementation of the Ward report on the casualisation of teaching

* the increase in teachers’ take home pay this month and the commitments in the Landsdowne Road agreement which will benefit all public servants including teachers.

The TUI said those who entered the teaching profession from February 2012 had “been placed on a severely cut pay scale which sees their starting pay reduced by 21.7 per cent compared to those appointed prior to 2011 (based on contract of full hours)”.

“To make matters worse, for several years now, second-level teachers have been applying for fractions of jobs with no guarantee of being retained from year to year. Some 30 percent of second-level teachers are employed on a temporary and/or part-time basis and this proportion grows to 50 per cent for those under 35.”

The union argued that as a result of casualisation, students were often taught by a succession of teachers in a given subject area over the course of the Junior or Leaving Certificate cycles.

It said this was “clearly undesirable”.

“We are hearing more frequently that it is becoming increasingly difficult for schools to attract new teachers in certain subject areas.

“Graduates who had intended to undertake a masters in teaching and, increasingly, qualified teachers across a range of subjects are routinely finding better paid and more secure employment in industry.”