TEACHER unions will be urged today by Fine Gael’s education spokesman to end industrial action in schools which has the potential to impact on students and damage public support.
Brian Hayes will also be critical of the Government’s decision before Christmas to walk away from talks with public service unions which could have brought about much-need reforms in the running of schools and other services.
In an address to a party AGM in Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe’s Cork North West constituency, Mr Hayes will outline his belief that, while the country’s 65,000 teachers are justifiably angry at pay cuts and education cutbacks, no good will come from a protracted period of unrest and non-cooperation in schools.
From this morning, second-level teachers will no longer be allowed by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland to carry out duties of retired colleagues who held middle management positions that a Government promotion ban means must be left vacant.
Since the moratorium was imposed a year ago, more than 1,100 such positions have been vacated through retirements or teachers leaving schools, but other teachers with posts of responsibility have co-operated where schools reshuffled duties to prioritise functions crucial to the running of schools.
Second-level school manager bodies have warned that the work-to-rule beginning today could lead to some schools closing from September after the anticipated retirements of hundreds more teachers in middle management positions this summer.
“In whatever way teachers choose to fight back following the dramatic reductions in their pay, I would appeal to them not to take it out on students and parents.
“Whoever is responsible for the mess this country is in, it’s certainly not those students who are in our schools,” Mr Hayes will tell the FG constituency AGM in Millstreet. He will say, despite their crucial role in defending members’ pay and conditions, teaching unions do not have a right of veto to change in the education system.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation executive will consider similar action to their second-level counterparts in relation to vacant middle management posts later this month, and all three unions have banned members from taking part in parent-teacher meetings outside school hours, and a range of non-co-operation directives relating to school inspections, class sizes and other areas.
Mr Hayes will also criticise Government and media “demonisation” of teachers and other public servants, and say that the Government should not have walked away from pay talks that ended the week before last December’s budget.
“It’s absolutely clear major change within the profession was on the table. Change in the area of the teacher contract, the number of contracted hours in the school day and greater school flexibility, were all on the table before the Government chose to walk away.”
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