Union rift over pay widens as teachers jeer Coughlan
THE split between teachers over the controversial pay deal widened yesterday.
INTO leaders are now confident their members will swing in behind the package after a narrow vote in Galway.
But the Teachers' Union of Ireland congress yesterday unanimously rejected the deal. Delegates also turned their ire on the "arrogant" leadership of ICTU for recommending what TUI president Don Ryan described as a "massive con job".
Meanwhile the other post primary union, the ASTI, will today pass an emergency motion expressing "total and vehement opposition" to the agreement.
The split in the unions will worry the new Education Minister Mary Coughlan, who yesterday sought to allay their fears that the proposed renegotiation of teachers' contracts will force major changes.
While she will be looking for improved efficiencies she quipped that she was not taking a 'machete' to their contract, nor was she planning to reduce their holidays.
The Minister attended her first teacher conference in Galway where about 100 INTO delegates held up placards protesting against public sector pay cuts.
There were some boos and jeers during her speech which was, however, strongly applauded when she paid tribute to the retiring union general secretary John Carr.
Later, in private session, the union executive had a narrow escape when an emergency motion recommending rejection of the deal was defeated by 304 to 308 votes.
If the vote were reversed it would have been extremely embarrassing for the executive which last week urged acceptance in a ballot of all members.
Executive member Noreen Flynn (Central Executive Committee) said while the deal was by no means ideal, members had to face the fact that "we are working in a collapsed economy''.
The sole alternative, she said, was strike action but this would involve handing more money back to the Government, something members could ill-afford.
But Dublin delegate Pat Crowe said the proposed deal sounded the death knell for the public service pension. In agreeing to the deal, the union was tying its hands behind its back.
While the INTO delegates were split evenly, there was unanimity among the 450 delegates to the TUI congress in Ennis which will be addressed by the Minister this morning.
General secretary Peter MacMenamin said that they would not get what they wanted "by talking nicely to Government, but only by taking strong action, strike action".
"We cannot play around with directives, we cannot pussyfoot around with small issues, and no one will play a blind bit of notice. It is only by taking the strongest of sharp actions that any change will come about".
He repeated that the TUI decision on the pay and reform package would not be overturned.
Meanwhile, the ASTI president Joe Moran told 500 delegates in Galway that from a traditional trade union perspective the deal seemed regressive and inadequate.