Wednesday 16 October 2019

Largest teachers' union to decide whether to re-enter talks

Lyndsey Telford

THE country's largest teachers' union will decide tomorrow whether to re-enter talks on a revised public sector pay deal.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), which represents 32,000 people, is one of three unions invited back to the negotiating table by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC).


The other two unions - the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) - are considering the invitation.


The teachers' organisations are the three last major unions to be asked back for final talks, after the Government warned it is preparing legislation to impose 300 million euro of cuts regardless.


"This invitation will be at the top of the agenda when the executive meets, but I would not dare speculate as to what they agree," a spokesman for the union said.


All three teachers' unions rejected the original Croke Park II deal, which included plans for straight pay cuts when published by the LRC in February.


These would see someone on 100,000 euro down 6,000 euro, and someone earning 160,000 euro down to 149,100 euro.


As well as rejecting the deal, the unions are also balloting their members on industrial action, up to and including strike, which would be triggered in the event the Government imposes unilateral pay cuts.


The INTO also expects the result of that ballot on Friday.


The ASTI ballot on industrial action closes on Monday and a result should be announced within 24 hours.


A spokeswoman for the union, which represents 18,000 secondary school teachers, said any decision to return to the negotiating table would have to be based on the nature of the talks.


"It all depends on what the talks are about," she said.


"If we feel that they are serious talks about the education sector, rather than some kind of tweaking. Certainly we need to know what is up for discussion."


The spokeswoman said the union would have to hold preliminary talks with the LRC before agreeing to return to the table.


"We will have to do it through democratic structures here," she said.


"We will have to meet with our standing committee to look at what is being proposed."


ASTI members rejected the original Croke Park II proposals with an overwhelming 85%.


The TUI also has an executive meeting scheduled for Friday, where representatives will discuss the possibility of re-entering talks.


Elsewhere, LRC chief executive Kieran Mulvey has been locked in talks with other public sector unions in a bid to strike a deal.


He said he expects agreement no later than Friday and indicated at least 10 unions were likely to accept the deal.


Mr Mulvey, who is considered the country's top industrial relations mediator, warned the Government remains committed to shaving 300 million euro off the public pay bill by July, and by a further billion euro by 2015.


Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin also confirmed the Government was pressing ahead with legislation to impose the cuts unilaterally - as a back-up plan should no agreement be reached.

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