No 'fat to cut' from education budget
'Powerful interests' out to get unions, says leader
THERE is no scope for further education cutbacks, the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) warned yesterday.
ASTI general secretary Pat King insisted schools are already run "on a shoestring" and "there is no fat to cut".
Irish education was already chronically underfunded compared with other countries.
Mr King also promised that the trade union movement would start a determined fightback against powerful interests hostile to trade unions.
"There is a concerted push by powerful interests to target the trade union movement," he said.
"These include certain political interests, most multinational corporations, big business interests, at least one airline, and small business interests, celebrity economists and sections of the news media.
"There is a very consistent line put forward by these groups and their representatives that trade unions are nothing more than a 'vested' interest, that trade unions' day is done, that they are from another age," he said.
Mr King said it was ridiculous that anyone could blame trade unions for Ireland's economic woes.
"If I want to know who caused the economic collapse of this country, the last three people I would go to for the answer would be a Celtic Tiger property developer, a Celtic Tiger banker and a Celtic Tiger stockbroker."
ASTI members had changed their minds on the Croke Park Agreement since voting for the deal last year, said Mr King, adding: "To change your mind, to alter your position is a very intelligent thing to do when you have new information and when the context has changed and, my word, has the context changed since last May."
There was "great concern" within the ASTI over Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's warning that further savings were required.
But further reductions in educational budgets and school provisions would be potentially disastrous for the country, he said, and short-sighted. It was bad enough that the current generation of young people was going to inherit massive debt repayments without also denying them the best possible education.
The ASTI boss also warned that the long-term legacy of having different teachers on different pay scales would be demoralisation and bitterness.