Irish News

Thursday 24 July 2014

Revealed: teachers plan school strike chaos in pay battle 

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Published 27/04/2013|07:46

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TEACHERS are drawing up plans for rolling strikes and other forms of industrial action that will cause chaos in schools as they gear up for a battle with the Government over threatened pay cuts.

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The Irish Independent can reveal details of the options being considered by teaching unions if the Government presses ahead with pay cuts without agreement, following the rejection of the Croke Park II deal.

Strikes could close schools for one or more days at a time, while a possible ban on parent-teacher and other meetings outside school hours would result in pupils being sent home early.

Teachers may also withdraw from, or limit, supervision and substitution work.

Such a move could force schools to close on health and safety grounds because of lack of cover.

The education system would be brought to its knees very quickly if teachers vote for, and implement, the range of options now under consideration.

Second-level unions have already confirmed that there is no threat to the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exams.

Ballots of members are being organised as the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) seeks to break the deadlock between the Government and unions.

The news emerged as low-paid civil servants in the CPSU voted unanimously for industrial action, including strike action, if their pay is cut. And Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) staff at stateowned banks voted for strike action if the Government pushes ahead with plans for a 10pc pay cut.

The Government insists that the €300m savings envisaged this year – rising to €1bn in 2015 – must be achieved through pay cuts.

The teacher unions will ballot members on the possibility of industrial action in the summer when schools are closed, meaning strikes could begin in September.

Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan said "nothing is ruled out or in".

She said possible industrial action could include withdrawal of goodwill, ceasing additional work, a withdrawal from the terms of Croke Park I – a key feature of which was extra working hours by teachers to allow for meetings outside school time.

The three main unions will co-ordinate their action in the biggest show of strength by teachers in over 25 years.

Possible stoppages could take place on a regional basis, with different parts of the country hit on different days.

Another option would be for individual unions to strike on different dates, with a one-day stoppage one week followed by two or three days the week after.

The INTO ballot will take place between May 13 and May 16, while ballots by the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) will conclude on May 20.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said a Yes vote would show the strength of opposition among teachers to any worsening of pay and conditions.

Support He said voting Yes would place the ASTI in a position of readiness "in the event that the Government chooses to ignore the voices of public servants and to impose unilateral pay cuts".

Ms Nunan said: "There can be no rush back to the table.

"There is no basis for a deal that will focus exclusively on cutting the pay of public servants. Teachers have sent a message to the Government to look elsewhere other than their wages exclusively." TUI general secretary John MacGabhann said everything depended on what the Government did.

The TUI has already decided not to get involved in any renegotiation of the Croke Park II proposals.

Meanwhile, the university lecturers' union IFUT will decide on its position at its annual conference today.

Members are scheduled to debate a motion to commit the leadership not to support or engage in any process of clarification or modification of Croke Park II and not to reballot members unless a decision to do so is taken at a special delegate conference.

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