Teachers disproportionately hit by austerity cuts, says union leader

Teachers threaten to pull political support over two-tier pay system

Annette Dolan, Deputy General Secretary and John MacGabhann, General Secretary at the TUI conference on Tuesday. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

Annette Dolan, Deputy General Secretary and John MacGabhann, General Secretary at the TUI conference on Tuesday. Photograph: Tommy Clancy

 

Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) should tell politicians that neither they nor their families will support any candidate or party until pay equality for recently recruited teachers is secured, the union’s general secretary has said.

Speaking at the TUI’s annual conference in Wexford, John MacGabhann said members should tell TDs and senators as well as “wannabe” politicians that “you will not organise, canvass or vote for them until they do the right thing.

“There will most likely be an election sometime after Budget 2019 [to be delivered in October<DD>)], but we need movement in that budget,” he said.

“Tell them that the budget is a defining moment. Tell them that, for teachers, pay equality will require a number of issues to be addressed - additional points of scale, incremental credit for unwaged periods of pre-service training, reinstatement of the PME allowance. Tell them that equality won’t be possible if these matters are not addressed and that equality must be secured. They must be made to believe that you mean what you say, that you are making a promise, not a threat.”

Mr MacGabhann said teachers had experienced disproportionate cuts during the austerity years.

He said the the Government chose to take more from teachers than it did from others. “It returned to the scene of the crime - not once but twice. It plundered our members’ pay more often, more steeply. Restitution therefore is more costly. Let Government regard it as the price of justice, the necessary cost of equality.”

Mr MacGabhann also criticised the increasing workload and levels of bureaucracy he said teachers and lecturers were facing.

“A central element of the TUI’s commitment to members is our determination to protect you against the further erosion of your personal time by workload that seems always to be increasing, each increase bringing you further from your core function as a teacher/lecturer and further into the mire of bureaucracy-for-its-own-sake.

“We have, therefore, the phenomenon in every school, college and centre of multiple returns of data being required rather than one return put to multiple uses. Our members end up with a queasy feeling that they are working primarily for external agencies rather than for their students.”

Mr MacGabhann said lecturers in third-level education “one way or the other” would not be carrying out from September extra lectures as part of a controversial additional “flex hour” arrangement introduced a number of years ago.

The union is currently balloting members in institutes of technology for industrial action over “unsustainable workloads”.

He said even without the flex hour - which he described as a running sore - “our third level members are being asked to carry an insupportable and intolerable workload.

“Each hour of lecturing requires a multiple of that hour in terms of preparation, research, assessment. We have an agreement with Government that the second flex hour will be redesignated. That has not yet happened,” Mr MacGabhann told the conference.

“However, colleagues, one way or the other, you will not be lecturing for that flex hour from September. The ballot outcome will confirm this. Government needs to wise up and honour the agreements it makes with us.”

Mr MacGabhann said the jobs of TUI members “will have to be protected against displacement or replacement by online content”. Mr MacGabhann also backed the unification of the TUI with the second level teachers’ union, the ASTI.

“The current absurdity of there being two teacher unions representing post-primary teachers is an affront to logic and an obstacle in terms of service to members,” he said, adding teachers were at a loss to understand why there are two separate unions.

“Both the TUI and the ASTI have adopted clear policy positions favouring movement to teacher unity and at their respective December 2017 meetings, the executives of TUI and ASTI reaffirmed their commitment in this regard. It is my very strong view that it cannot come soon enough.”