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31 August 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

ASTI launches campaign on class size

As schools around the country re-open for the new school year, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) is embarking on a nationwide political lobbying campaign to highlight the need to reduce class sizes in second level schools.

"Large classes are a serious cause of concern for parents and teachers. The idea of having 25-plus or 30-plus vibrant adolescents in a classroom is outdated and severely restricts the use of modern teaching and learning methods," said ASTI President Michael Freeley.

Recent figures show that approximately 35,000 Junior Cycle students are in classes of more than 30, and up to 90,000 students are in classes of more than 25.

In 2002, the McGuinness Report on Staffing in Second Level Schools recommended the addition of 1,200 classroom teachers. While the Government has created a number of additional posts in areas such as special needs, guidance counselling and English language support, these are not mainstream classroom teaching posts and have had a negligible effect on the crucial issue of class size.

ASTI representatives from all over the 26 Counties will meet local politicians over the coming months to urge them to take a stand on the issue of class size at second level. The union will also meet with parents' groups to discuss collaboration in relation to its class size campaign.

In a related development, according to a document prepared by the three main teaching unions, Irish teachers spend more time in the classroom than in any other OECD member-state.

In a joint response to a controversial Department of Education submission to the public service benchmarking body, the unions claim that Irish second level teachers are required to spend up to 74 hours more each year in the classroom than their OECD counterparts.

Irish primary level teachers also spend 120 hours more than their OECD counterparts.

Strike ballot at Chorus Communications

Workers at Chorus Communications are to ballot for industrial action if management proceeds with plans to outsource their jobs. Chorus Communications is owned by Liberty Global Europe (LGE). In December 2005, LGE completed its acquisition of NTL Ireland, which then became part of the UPC Broadband group within Liberty. It employs over 400 workers, with the majority based in Cork.

SIPTU Branch Organiser Alan O'Leary said that the TV channel provider is trying to force its employees out and bring in contract workers in their place. They are already advertising for technicians in the local media.

"Management is calling it restructuring, but they really want to reduce their permanent workforce and bring in contract workers," he said.

"Next week we will seek a mandate from our members to take industrial action if management tries to implement the plans before going through all the industrial relations procedures.

"SIPTU members in Sligo, Athlone, Newbridge, and Clonmel as well as Cork will participate in the ballot."

Strike at Independent Newspapers?

Workers at Independent Newspapers have voted for strike action if the company, owned by 'Sir' Tony O'Reilly, a former beans salesperson, goes ahead with plans to alter the employee pension scheme.

"If management proceed to make any changes without agreement, we will issue seven days' notice of industrial action up to and including strike action," said Shane McKean, Secretary of the Dublin Printing Group of Unions (DPGU).

"Management wants staff to increase employee contributions to the defined benefit pension scheme to 6.62 per cent, and to forgo the one per cent wage indexation negotiated for productivity. It also wants to close off membership of the scheme to new entrants."

The DPGU comprises members of SIPTU, the National Union of Journalists, the Technical, Engineering & Electrical Union, manufacturing union Amicus and the Sales, Marketing and Advertising Union of Ireland.

More than 200 jobs to go in Antrim

Talks are ongoing between unions and management at an electronics company in Antrim following the announcement that more than 200 jobs are to go.

South Korean-owned Daewoo Electronics told staff this week that it was shedding 205 jobs at its television and DVD factory in Antrim. The company has been based in Antrim for 17 years and at one point employed more than a thousand workers in the Six Counties.

A spokesperson for the company blamed increased competition from China and Turkey, where labour costs are far lower, for the cutbacks.

Amicus trade union spokesperson Terry Collins called for more to be done to protect manufacturing jobs in the Six Counties. There has been a steady increase in job losses in this sector over the last 24 months, with Meath, Donegal and Antrim hit hard.

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