TUI signals wage claim as economy recovers

Ballot to be held on exiting Haddington Road deal if all aspects not honoured

Call for   Minister for Education  Ruairí Quinn to immediately repeal section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Call for Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to immediately repeal section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES


Teachers should seek pay rises when the economy recovers, according to the general secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI).

Addressing 424 delegates at the union’s annual congress in Kilkenny yesterday, John MacGabhann said Ireland’s economic recovery appeared to have begun, although he cautioned that external factors might slow the growth rate.

“At an appropriate time, and not too far from now, we in TUI and our colleagues in other unions will have to reinstate the practice of making pay claims,” he said.

Following a decision by delegates, the union is to formulate a claim to improve the pay of its members. Congress also decided to ballot members on pulling out of the Haddington Road deal if the Government does not honour all aspects of the agreement.

The resolutions come as leaders of the TUI and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) called for a merger of the unions at their respective conferences yesterday. TUI delegates backed a proposal for their leadership to “immediately engage” in talks with the ASTI to bring about a merged body that would represent over 33,000 teachers at second and third level.

Common challenges
Mr MacGabhann argued both unions faced common challenges and common threats. “It is increasingly illogical, often absurd and certainly wasteful to have two unions at second level,” he said. “At one time, a merger would have been impractical and unnecessary, but that time is past.”

In a move co-ordinated between the two unions, A STI president Sally Maguire also told delegates at the union’s conference in Wexford that all teachers would be stronger if the two unions merged.

The TUI and the ASTI have worked closely in the past year, particularly in co-ordinating a campaign of opposition to Junior Certificate reforms. The merger proposal faces significant and vocal dissent from within union ranks, however, with the strongest opposition coming from 4,000 third-level lecturers represented by the TUI. Several speakers said their voice would be diluted in the proposed merger.

This is not the first time unions have shown an appetite for merging in the past two decades, with the proposal mooted and eventually abandoned. Meanwhile, Mr MacGabhann threw cold water on Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn’s plans for technological universities, which are set to replace the current institute of technology (IoT) structure.

Technological universities
“We will explore ways of improving the range and quality of the public education service in the IoT sector. We have not said no to technological universities, but we are not convinced by the model as described to date,” he said. However, he warned: “If the Department of Education, the HEA, and the IoT presidents want us as partners – and if they wish to make progress in this project, they need us as partners – they will have to talk to us, provide the resources that will enable us to be properly engaged, and show appropriate respect for the academic staff that are at the very heart of any higher education institution.”

The experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered teachers in post-primary schools was also highlighted at yesterday’s conference.

To wide support, delegate Patrick Hogan called on the Minister to immediately repeal section 37 of the Employment Equality Acts, which could allow a school to fire or refuse to hire an LGBT teacher if his or her sexual orientation was seen as conflicting with the school’s ethos. He said this has been promised by Mr Quinn since he took up office, but the pace of change was proving glacial.