8 April 2010 Edition
Nuacht na nOibrithe
INTO says ‘Yes’... but only just
THE new Education Minister for the 26 Counties, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, learned the hard way on Tuesday that trade unionists are taking a very critical look at the Public Service Agreement when she was booed and heckled by delegates at the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation conference representing 30,000 primary school teachers. One hundred delegates held up placards against government cuts throughout the deputy premier’s traditional address.
Delegates gave the Fianna Fáil minister a frosty reception when she took the stage at the conference, in Salthill, County Galway.
The Tánaiste got a timely lesson from INTO President Máire Ní Chuinneagáin, who told the union’s annual congress that government is forcing ordinary workers to bail out what she called “an elite band of so far untouchable financial joyriders”.
In her presidential address she told delegates that, as a result of government policies, the state is facing the most serious challenge since its inception.
She said government economic policies are making a bad situation worse and had caused the economy to crash spectacularly and unemployment to rocket, leaving emigration as the “default option” for thousands.
“Workers and those on welfare have been demonised and then penalised. Public services and small businesses are being decimated and vital capital investment curtailed.”
She said the wealth of recent years had been squandered and the financial future mortgaged to pay for the criminal deeds of the few.
She said the government equated patriotism with giving €40 billion to the lifeless Anglo Irish Bank and the same again to the other banks, while slashing the income of workers, welfare recipients and those with disabilities.
The conference was told that, because of government decisions, underinvestment in education would continue. “Every year for the foreseeable future, the equivalent of the annual education budget, currently half of EU norms, will be used simply to pay the interest on the NAMA debt.”
She told the conference, attended by 750 delegates from all over the country, that in Ireland today “unwanted hotel rooms and unsold apartments sit side by side with prefabs that pass for classrooms”.
“That is the legacy of the elite band of financial joyriders who we now forced to bail out.”
INTO delegates were split right down the middle when it came to voting on an emergency motion urging rejection of the public sector agreement negotiated with government at Croke Park last week.
Even though the INTO leadership recommended acceptance of the deal, the agreement’s approval by congress squeaked through by just four votes, 308 to 304.
TUI conference says ‘No deal’
THE Teachers’ Union of Ireland annual conference has unanimously called for a ballot on the public service deal, with a strong recommendation to members to reject it.
Voting on Tuesday afternoon, TUI delegates endorsed their Executive Committee’s rejection of the proposed Public Service Agreement and instructed leaders to ballot the members, “recommending endorsement of this rejection by an emphatic vote against the proposal and to conduct a vigorous campaign amongst the members for this purpose”.
The motion added emphatically:
“Congress insists that TUI alone, as a sovereign union, reserves its right to take its own decision irrespective of any overall decision by any other grouping.”
CUT TO THE BONE
In his annual address in Ennis, County Clare, TUI General Secretary Peter MacMenamin outlined the fury of members at a government that picks up the debts of banking executives while withdrawing books for schoolchildren and cutting the pay of teachers and lecturers “to the bone and beyond.”
The teachers’ leader slammed government’s priorities.
“Right now we seem to be in a new form of redistributive politics. Instead of redistributing wealth – noticeably not done in the good times – the government has allowed wealth to be concentrated among a few: developers, bankers and others in an inner circle.
“When they blew all they had and much more through personal greed the government squandered the nation’s resources for generations into the future by distributing the personal debts of those few, resulting in a liability equivalent to €12,000 for each individual, man woman and child in this country.”
“Why is it that this government will allow the three or four senior executives of one bank to escape their responsibilities, leaving behind their personal debts running to over €100 million to be picked up be the taxpayer while the books for schoolchildren are withdrawn and the pay of TUI members is cut to the bone and beyond?”
Only TUI members will make a decision on their pay and conditions, the TUI general secretary emphasised.
“TUI’s decision on the proposed public service pay deal will be just that: a TUI decision. Nobody else will overturn it: not an aggregation of teachers’ votes; not an aggregation of public service workers’ votes, not the Public Services Committee of ICTU; not ICTU itself.
“The sovereign decision of TUI will be just that.”
Secondary teachers recommend rejection
THE Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland conference in Galway City put aside the entire agenda on Wednesday to debate an emergency motion urging rejection of the Croke Park deal and 500 delegates voted overwhelmingly to instruct the union’s 180-strong, ruling Central Executive Committee this Friday (9 April) to ballot members on the issue with a recommendation that it be rejected.
The ASTI represents 18,500 second-level teachers all over the country.
ASTI General Secretary John White has called on ASTI members to rise above the divisive tactics of “the right-wing commentariat which are designed to attack the very essence of trade unionism”.
“Attempts to divide unions from one another can only weaken the role of unions in representing an alternative vision for our society in this horrendous recession. Attacking solidarity is attacking the very essence of trade unionism.”
He warned that those with an anti-union agenda will attempt to ‘make big’ any hint of difference among union members in “a climate of unrestrained attempts by the right-wing to diminish the power of unions to represent their members”.
“This right-wing believes the place for trade unions is outside the door where their influence is negligible. Trade unions must not allow themselves to be provoked into misguided and doomed actions. We must deal with this crisis in a coherent, rational and strategic manner. Above all, we must remain united.”