UNION leaders have told teachers how the Croke Park agreement has tied their hands on taking industrial action.
Demands from delegates at the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) conference to be allowed to use such action -- as a weapon against job cuts affecting the most disadvantaged pupils -- were overruled.
Although voted down on two occasions, up to one-third of the delegates supported industrial action.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunn -- who is also a member of the Croke Park Agreement implementation body -- said industrial peace was part of the trade-off for protecting pay and jobs.
"We have to be truthful and honest: industrial action puts us in direct conflict with the agreement to protect the pay of teachers," she warned.
There was outrage among delegates over the cap on special needs assistant (SNA) numbers and reductions in resource staff who provide support to disadvantaged pupils.
Drogheda branch delegate Mary Conneely said teachers needed to dispel the myth that they could meet the demands of children with special needs without proper support systems.
She said the Government had no understanding of the role played by resource teachers and SNAs.
"We cannot burn the bondholders, we cannot even singe them -- but we can roast our special needs children," she said.
Appealing for support for industrial action, she said they could "think outside the box" when it came to deciding what form it could take.
Maree Farrell of Dublin City North branch claimed children with special needs would not survive in mainstream classrooms if resource support was withdrawn or reduced.
Ultimately, the call for industrial action was defeated by about three to one.
There was a similar tone to a debate on Tuesday condemning 700 job cuts this year, which will impact on supports for Travellers and other marginalised students and on plans to abolish 500 English language support jobs over four years.
A call for industrial action to seek to restore these positions was defeated by two to one.