SOME teachers are "terrified" to be open about their sexuality at work because of fear of losing their livelihoods, it has been claimed.
Delegates at the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) annual congress overwhelmingly approved a motion calling for politicians to repeal "draconian" legislation and guarantee teachers protection in their workplace.
Patrick Hogan of the Limerick TUI branch told the large gathering of teachers in Kilkenny yesterday that this leads to discrimination and should be repealed.
"I'm here to tell you today that we have members of this union who are terrified to be open about their sexuality at work, because of their real fear of losing their livelihoods," he said. "They are working in educational institutions that are in receipt of public funds. How can the Government continue to tolerate this?"
The motion, introduced by TUI branches in Limerick city, Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, said Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act had a "paralysing effect" on individuals, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) teachers, who were "particularly vulnerable" to its consequences.
Members also heard calls for more to be done to increase female participation in the TUI.
Meanwhile, steps towards the merging of the two unions who represent second-level teachers were taken. Both the TUI general-secretary and president spoke in favour of a merger between the TUI, which represents 14,500 second-level and third-level staff, and the ASTI, the country's largest second-level union with 18,000 members.
General-secretary John MacGabhann described it as "absurd" to have two unions.
Delegates voted in favour of a motion calling on the TUI executive to "immediately engage" in talks with the ASTI "for the purpose of bringing about unity" of the two unions.