Militant teachers increase pressure for new pay deal


TEACHERS have stepped up pressure on the Minister for Education with votes at annual conferences for industrial action and a new claim by secondary teachers for a substantial pay increase.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland voted for industrial action to force a renegotiation of the terms of the rejected £66.7 million pay and conditions package.

Delegates in Cork voted overwhelmingly in favour of an executive motion seeking to "renegotiate the package ... using all means at its disposal including resort to industrial action where necessary".

The wide ranging motion also demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Department of Education's controversial "Time in School" circular. The union executive was censured for failing to protect teachers against a "media onslaught" surrounding the rejection of the deal.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI), meeting in Killarney, is to decide today on whether to take industrial action. The media are to be excluded from the debate. This follows complaints by some delegates about the presence of a journalist at an executive council meeting last week.

Even before today's debate, however, delegates yesterday rejected one of the cornerstones of the Government's offer promotion on merit. The conference voted overwhelmingly to resist any changes in the current procedures to fill posts of responsibility in schools.

Delegates will be asked to choose from a range of options, from all out action to a return to negotiations, following the rejection of the package by members.

In her conference addresses, the Minister offered renewed discussions on early retirement and promotions, but this could backfire if it leads, once again, to raised expectations among teachers.

In Belfast, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) presented the Minister with a further challenge when delegates voted to take industrial action on the supply of substitute teachers.

The union wants Ms Breathnach to set up a supply panel for substitute teachers. Last year, more than one third of teacher absences was filled by unqualified staff.

Delegates at the ASTI conference also voted overwhelmingly to seek salary increases for their input into new Leaving Cert syllabuses, and new programmes such as the transition year and the Leaving Cert Applied Programme.