Teacher unions say state lacked courage

TEACHER unions have warned of inevitable industrial unrest, with one leader accusing the Government of lacking moral courage to reach agreement on public service pay savings.

Peter MacMenamin, general secretary of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), said an agreement seemed to have been in place that would have allowed for considerable savings and public service reform, while providing a period of agreement in the absence of industrial unrest.

“However, the Government did not have the moral courage to proceed and social partnership now lies dead on the floor of Government Buildings,” he said.

By 2pm yesterday, Department of Education officials had signed off on a deal that would allow teachers deliver the proposed 12 days of unpaid annual leave over six years rather than the three or four years which was being discussed earlier this week.

“Any agreement would have been put before members in a ballot. Unfortunately, it seems there is now the inevitability of a further pay cut for public servants and subsequent industrial strife,” Mr MacMenamin said.

The TUI executive committee and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland standing committee will assess the situation on Monday, while the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) executive meets over the weekend to consider developments.

INTO incoming general secretary Sheila Nunan said public service unions had stepped up to the plate and acted in good faith, offering to make a very generous and constructive contribution to transforming the public service.

“All of this has been rejected by Government and a once-off opportunity has now been lost,” said Ms Nunan.

ASTI general secretary John White said the union is greatly disappointed that the Government reacted to “ill-informed comments” in relation to the talks.

“The teacher unions had agreed with the Department of Education that unpaid leave would be spread over a number of years and that the continuity of education would be preserved for our children and young people,” he said.

Details of the unpaid leave arrangements in education, seen by the Irish Examiner, included a stipulation that no more than two days could have been taken in any year. For school teachers and third-level lecturers, it was agreed there would be no impact on the length or structure of the school or academic year or class contact with students, and teachers’ leave would not be covered by substitution arrangements.

While union leaders warned of the lost opportunities of the failed pay talks, Chambers Ireland representing 13,000 business welcomed the Government decision to abandon the process.

“The Government now needs to move forward with real quantifiable cuts in the public service pay and pensions bill as part of its ongoing measures to close the gap in the public finances,” said deputy chief executive Seán Murphy.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, which recently wrote to the Taoiseach’s office claiming it was unfair that they were excluded from the talks, said it now fears that unjust and unfair decisions will be made in the budget.


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