Further cuts likely to trigger industrial action by TUI

ANY cuts to teachers’ pay or further education cutbacks look almost certain to trigger industrial action by 15,000 members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), who are to be balloted for possible strikes.

The executive of the union – with members in second-level schools, further education colleges and institutes of technology – decided yesterday to ballot members for action up to a series of strikes.

If the ballot is passed, such action would be called if the Government imposes any of a series of measures in the December budget.

But it seems inevitable that the budget will include at least some of the four measures, which are anything that would: worsen conditions of service; reduce staffing in schools and colleges; threaten job security or reduce pay or pensions.

“Teachers and lecturers have already had their conditions of service severely affected by education cuts introduced since last year and have suffered a pay cut in the form of the unilaterally imposed pension levy,” said TUI general secretary Peter MacMenamin.

“We acknowledge that we are living in difficult times, but any further pain must be spread among all those who can afford it, and not just public servants.

“Cuts to the education service are a direct attack on the most vulnerable children attempting to navigate a way through the system, and we will continue to highlight this forcefully in the coming weeks,” he said.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe said the TUI’s decision is regrettable and that the country’s position will not be advanced by the threat or the reality of industrial action. “There’s a need to pull together in the national interest and to act in solidarity as Irish citizens in the common good,” he said.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) 23-member standing committee yesterday reiterated its intention to ballot members “if necessary” on whether to take industrial action over further second-level cuts.

ASTI president Joe Moran said the union’s members have been left “enraged at the prospect of further cuts to teachers’ incomes and the proposals on education” contained in An Bord Snip Nua.

“Classes of 30 or more adolescents are now commonplace,” said ASTI general secretary John White.

“Young people at risk of dropping out of the school system are being denied appropriate education opportunities,” he added.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation said last month that it would ballot its 30,000 members for industrial action up to strike if social partnership talks with government break down, a decision partly prompted by Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s indications that public servants’ pay would be cut in the budget.

Irish Federation of University of Teachers general secretary Mike Jennings said last night that its executive will not rush into any decisions on possible industrial action, but can make a decision at short notice if a ballot needs to be called.

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