U-turn as teachers to vote on joining pay talks
THE Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) is to ballot members immediately on suspending its current limited industrial action and entering direct talks on the Croke Park agreement.
The dramatic U-turn followed the Irish Independent revelation yesterday that up to 100 lecturers in institutes of technology face compulsory redundancy because their jobs are set to disappear in a few months.
The Department of Education confirmed that, following the Croke Park deal, it was collecting information about surpluses in staffing in institutes of technology. A spokesperson said no figures were available yet.
The 'surplus' staff are mainly involved in teaching apprentices who attend the institutes for two terms of 10-11 weeks during their four-year apprenticeships.
These jobs are set to disappear as the numbers of new apprentices has plummeted.
However, if the union agrees to suspend its action and go into talks, the threat of redundancy will be lifted and the surplus staff can be retrained and redeployed.
The ballot of the 14,500 members in second-level schools and third-level colleges will get under way early next week. But unless the mandate is given very quickly the talks with the other teacher unions could be nearly over by the time the TUI comes on board.
Yesterday's disclosure put huge pressure on the TUI executive, which was meeting all day. Sources said there was anger and consternation in some institutions when members realised they faced the possibility of the sack.
The threat was confirmed by the Taoiseach and the Department of Education and Skills.
"I hope people can take a more constructive attitude, because the Government has to discharge its responsibilities," said Mr Cowen, who added that the benefits of the Croke Park Agreement were available only to those who supported it.
"You know the economic circumstances we are facing; we have decisions to make," he added.
The agreement contains promises of no compulsory redundancies or further pay cuts in return for greater flexibility, redeployment and, in the case of teachers, an extra hour a week as well as new contracts.
Yesterday the TUI described as outrageous and illegal suggestions that staff from another college could take up vacancies ahead of these surplus staff.
Speaking on RTE's 'Morning Ireland', Peter McMenamin, general secretary of the TUI, said singling out union members was illegal. He also described the suggestion as 'counterproductive'.
The suggestion was contained in a letter sent by the management body for the institutes, which said no TUI member has a right to redeployment to any vacant post.
"For example, if a vacancy arises in an engineering department and a TUI member in the electrical trades has the qualifications to fill the job, it does not necessarily follow that he can. If there is a SIPTU lecturer in a nearby university with suitable qualifications, who is surplus to requirements, he arguably has a greater right to the vacancy than the TUI member as SIPTU is compliant with the Croke Park Agreement".
Meanwhile, Fine Gael has described the proposal for compulsory redundancies as premature. It said the real problem was that the Government did not have plans to use the flexibility provisions contained in the Croke Park agreement.