Sunday 26 March 2017

Teacher unions split on Croke Park deal

TUI and ASTI reject pact as INTO votes to accept

Katherine Donnelly and Anne-Marie Walsh

TEACHERS were last night split down the middle on the Croke Park pay and reform deal.

The two second-level unions -- the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) -- rejected the deal, while primary teachers voted in favour.

With growing signs that a majority of public service unions will back the deal, the TUI and ASTI will be at odds with an aggregate vote by the 19-member Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (ICTU).

Teacher resistance is centred on the plan to renegotiate their contracts and a requirement to work an extra hour per week.

The outcome of the ballots by teacher unions followed the recommendations given by their individual leaderships.

The biggest margin against was in the TUI, where 75pc registered a 'No' vote, compared with 62pc of ASTI members. Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) members were 65pc in favour.

ASTI members work predominantly in secondary schools, while TUI members work in the community and comprehensive and vocational sectors, and third-level institutes of technology.

The results of the ballot by the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) will be known on Monday.

TUI general secretary Peter McMenamin reiterated yesterday that his union would not be bound by any aggregate decision of the PSC.

PSC chairman Peter McLoone said he was confident the draft deal would be passed despite the teachers' ballot results.

Mr McLoone said the proposed agreement was the "most secure foundation stone we can put in place to deal with the threats and challenges we face".

The verdict of the two largest unions IMPACT and SIPTU, due on June 11, will decide whether the deal is formally accepted when the PSC meets on June 15. The overall result will be calculated by adding together each union's vote allocation, based on one vote for every 100 members.

Disappointing

Taoiseach Brian Cowen described the rejection by two teacher unions as "disappointing". He said it was "the best possible deal that could be negotiated in the present circumstances".

The TUI general secretary said the principal reason for the rejection was the open-ended demand for renegotiation of contracts together with the demand for an additional hour's work per week .

ASTI General Secretary John White said his members had voted against because they did not wish to have a review of their contracts, particularly in the context of significant pay cuts and a pension levy.

But INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the agreement provided a measure of protection for workers and their families at a time of great economic difficulty.

Education Minister Mary Coughlan sought to allay fears that the proposed new contract would interfere with their holidays and said the intention was to ensure that pupils received their full 167 days tuition at second-level and 183 at primary. That could mean teachers doing things like in-service training outside school hours.

Fine Gael Education spokesman Brian Hayes criticised the minister for failing to provide clarification to the teacher unions on issues around the teacher contract until 24 hours before teachers started voting on the deal.

"One month before the ballot took place some of the teacher unions requested the department to clarify issues that were raised in respect of the teacher contract," he said.

Irish Independent

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