Wednesday 21 February 2018

Emer O'Kelly: Pampered teachers and spoiled ESB workers disgrace legacy of lockout

In a democracy, the draconian way – such as banning strikes – can sometimes be the moral way

September 1913 : Crowds in Dublin's O'Connell street attending a trades union meeting
September 1913 : Crowds in Dublin's O'Connell street attending a trades union meeting

Emer O'Kelly

IT WAS interesting to hear Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn putting his head on the block in the Dail last week. He was taking question time on behalf of the Taoiseach, and offered more than a gleam of hope that the situation in the ESB concerning the workers' defined benefit/defined contribution outrage/spoiled tiff might be resolved before the D-day of December 16, when we are all dreading being plunged into freezing darkness for long hours each day.

Offering us hope might not seem like putting his head on the block, but then Quinn won't carry the can for the ESB strike if his measured optimism about resolution of the dispute turns out to have been unfounded. That will fall to his colleague Pat Rabbitte, the Minister for Energy. And it was Quinn's job to kick for touch on the day in question, possibly luckily for the Government, since Rabbitte has an arrogance almost guaranteed to exacerbate any delicate situation.

But on the same day, while wearing his own hat, and while members of the Asti (the secondary teachers' union) were in the midst of a ballot (their third) on the Haddington Road Agreement, Minister Quinn moved to stir the pot to the depths of the last lentil in dealing with its members. Their dispute could be described as every bit as esoteric as that of their fellow trades unionists in the ESB.

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