TEACHER unions and other groups are intensifying their campaign for a reversal of education cutbacks ahead of a Dáil vote on the issue in a week’s time.
A call for partnership on the issue from Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe has drawn an angry response from teacher unions, which said their previous requests for partnership on staffing were repeatedly rejected by his officials since last July.
The minister, who returns from an official trip to China on Saturday, insisted that class size increases enforced by last week’s budget would not be amended and called for co-operation from teachers and schools in the national interest. “It’s a question of having the funding to pay to meet the bills in education, the bottom line is that I don’t have the funding,” he said in Beijing.
But the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) described his comments as a desperate last-minute attempt to deflect attention from the widespread outrage at the class size changes. The union, along with the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), is heavily lobbying government party TDs and councillors through teachers and parents on the axing of hundreds of teaching jobs and other cutbacks. They hope to repeat yesterday’s scenes outside the Dáil, when thousands of college students and pensioners protested, next Wednesday.
The Government will face a Labour Party motion that night, calling for a reversal of the teaching cuts which will raise primary and second-level class sizes, with a vote on Thursday.
“For the minister to come out in public and tell teacher unions he is seeking partnership does not tell the full story. For four months, he had an opportunity to engage in discussions with the teacher unions and, for four months, our proposals for discussions were rejected,” said INTO’s John Carr.
TUI general secretary Peter MacMenamin said they asked Mr O’Keeffe to engage with them on prioritising spending before the budget, but their approach was rejected.
The ASTI has called on its 17,000 members to meet local TDs before next week.
The INTO is also planning rallies every weekend from November 8, beginning in Galway and continuing in Tullamore, Cork, Donegal and Dublin.
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