Teachers' pay claim
Sir, - While I concur with most of the sentiments in the opening paragraph of your editorial (December 18th), I would have to take issue with the tone and content of most of the remainder, the last sentence excepted.
Since the ASTI initiated industrial action in pursuit of its pay claim, you and your paper, through its columnists, have avoided debating the issues in this dispute. Instead, while paying lip-service to the contribution of teachers to this country and its students, you quickly pass on to chide the ASTI for its stance in leaving the PPF and seek to talk down the strength of feeling and sense of injustice among teachers, while at the same time talk up the glories of the promised benchmarking procedure which has yet to see the light of day, not to mention putting a penny piece onto the table, and certainly not into the pockets of teachers, or any other public servant.
You ignore the fact that over 70 per cent of an otherwise conservative body voted for industrial action, up to and including strike and withdrawal from exam work. You make virtually no reference to the withdrawal of co-operation with the Department in all vital areas of work on syllabus development, school planning and such like, because it does not suit your purpose to draw attention to such areas of voluntary co-operation on the part of the teachers and their unions and subject associations. You gloss over the fact that the INTO were persuaded to remain inside PPF by a wafer-thin majority and that the TUI is deeply divided in its attitude to the PPF, a substantial minority of its members being anxious to join the ASTI in its action. And if concessions are being won by those within, one wonders what influence do the above considerations bring to bear?
Teachers have seen their salaries fall from parity with TDs and garda inspectors to the level of gardai over the period of the various national agreements. Teachers have acted responsibly over the years and, for example, used the final phase of the PCW to address anomalies and longstanding problems within the teaching profession, in the spirit of the said PCW, while later settlers used the same clause to pay themselves more. Wage agreements are good for employers and Government, and it is in that context that there is such a consensus among certain groups for the PPF, and we are being urged to be good citizens and quietly stop all this nonsense and rejoin the fold!
All workers have a right to join a union, and those unions have the right to negotiate on behalf of their members. If some of the unions choose to bargain centrally, that is their right. If others, and the ASTI is one such, choose not to do so, that is equally their right. Government and the press cannot, on the one hand, condemn companies and organisations that refuse to allow workers to unionise, and on the other demonise a group of workers who have taken a considered decision to revert to individual bargaining.
One hopes that Mr Pomphrett's intervention will indeed bring about a resolution to this dispute, which would never have got to this stage of deadlock had the Government shown an openess to deal with it on its merits. - Yours etc.,
Jim Sheehan, Hillside, Greystones Co Wicklow.