Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/184/8016
Irish Teachers strike over pay
SIXTEEN THOUSAND secondary school teachers in Ireland took strike action on 14 November as part of their continuing campaign for a 30% pay rise.
Stephen Boyd, Dublin
The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has been pursuing its pay claim outside of the terms of the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF, national social partnership agreement) since March. Talks with the minister for education, Michael Woods, failed to deliver any progress.
ASTI vice-president Catherine Fitzpatrick said that teachers must be compensated for their significant and continuing contribution to the modernisation of the education system.
There has been a drop in applications for H.Dip courses and many qualified teachers are opting for more financially rewarding careers.
On 14 November all secondary schools in the country were closed except those with less than ten ASTI members. Demonstrations were held on that day outside the Department of Education offices in Dublin, Tullamore and Athlone.
The union have also banned school yard and break supervision on six days in November. This has meant that pupils, on instruction from the authorities, have not attended school on these days, although the teachers have turned up for work normally.
The government has further inflamed the situation by refusing to pay teachers for these days despite the fact that supervision is done on a voluntary basis and not a contractual obligation. A court action by ASTI is impending.
Another strike day is planned for 5 December, the day before the budget. The leaderships of the other two teachers unions TUI (secondary schools) and the INTO (primary schools) are pursuing their members' claims for higher wages through the benchmarking (linking public sector workers pay to the private sector) aspect of the PPF. However this process is not due for completion until 2003.
The TUI have announced it is to ballot its members for industrial action for a 40% pay claim to force the government to bring forward benchmarking, and that this claim should be met through the benchmarking process. However, many teachers view benchmarking as the precursor to performance-related pay.
The lead given by ASTI should be followed by the other teachers' unions. A united campaign of industrial action by all three teaching unions would bring the government to its knees.
Blame for disruption to students' education should be laid firmly at the feet of the government who are stubbornly refusing to recognise the legitimacy of the teachers' pay claim. The government is terrified that if they concede to ASTI that it will undermine the already discredited PPF and lead to further outbreaks of industrial action by other public-sector workers.
In The Socialist 1 December 2000: