Teachers' union must learn the hard lessons
Published 14/10/2016 | 02:30
Lessons and tests go hand-in-hand in education, but the determination by teachers' union ASTI to back industrial action - and thus test the Government's resolve to hold the line on public pay - could have some very hard lessons for all concerned.
Budgetary constraints mean that there is no room for manoeuvre. Should the ASTI break the line, other public servants including the gardaí who are also mulling over strike action will follow, and the public pay-bill will become unsustainable. There are some 300,000 public servants on the State payroll so breaching limits in an arbitrary manner would be anarchic.
An indication of the gulf between the sides is that the Government insists that the Lansdowne Road Agreement is the cornerstone of its industrial strategy, where the ASTI has dismissed it as "a piece of paper". Teachers are charged with preparing students for the real world and there seems to be a deficit in the ASTI's perception of reality in terms of what is affordable or reasonable. Teachers are also good at sums and a cursory glance at the Budget this week would have informed them that the Government has allocated €290m for pay restoration for public-service staff promised under the Lansdowne Road deal already.
Paschal Donohoe, who is charged with keeping the public purse in some kind of order, made it abundantly clear that there was no additional money over and above that committed to in the accord, before its expiry in 2018. The ASTI, of course, has rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement, but the simple truth is there is only so much money that can be squeezed out of taxpayers, who already feel they have been put through the wringer by Revenue.
The ASTI's stance has locked itself outside of a deal that has taken much heat out of the contentious two-tier pay row which left recent entrants to the profession lagging.
If there is one lesson from past disputes, it is that if half the energy expended on disagreement was put into negotiation, resolution need not be a dot on the horizon.
Future Goal needs to be beacon of transparency
Irish aid agencies have saved millions of lives and earned a priceless reputation across the world. That is why the announcement by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan that he has serious concerns over Goal’s operations in Syria, came as such a shock.
The relationship between the Irish public and all agencies is based on trust and respect built up over generations as aid workers put their own lives at risk to care for those on whom much of the world had turned its back. USAID is holding an investigation into Goal’s operations in Syria, and millions in funding have been frozen.
Barry Andrews, who has stepped down as Goal’s chief, said the organisation had grown very rapidly and that “some of our internal controls didn’t develop and evolve at the same speed”. As the head of the organisation he has to his credit taken responsibility, but the saga raises searching questions that need urgent answers.
The poorest and most defenceless people on the planet rely on the critical work and resources that NGOs supply.
They must be held to the most exacting standards of transparency and accountability. The sooner these matters are resolved the better. Global suffering, and need, cannot be turned on and off like a tap.
The source and supply of aid must be protected and cherished as the vital lifeline that it truly is