Secondary teachers threaten strike before election

Monday 18 January 2016 21.36
89% of Teachers' Union of Ireland members have voted in favour of engaging in a campaign of industrial action
89% of Teachers' Union of Ireland members have voted in favour of engaging in a campaign of industrial action

Second level teachers attached to the Teachers' Union of Ireland have threatened to hold a one-day strike before the general election unless the Government engages in talks with their union on key concerns.

Workers in the further education sector have also backed the proposal.

In a ballot, 89% of TUI members voted in favour of engaging in a campaign of industrial action.

The union said members are concerned about the precarious employment status and income poverty of recent entrants to the profession.

It is also worried about the "damaging effect" of cutbacks on the service provided to students.

Meeting today, the union's executive decided a one-day strike would be held before the election unless the union's demand for meaningful talks was met.

The union said starting pay for teachers who entered the profession after 2011 is up to 22% lower compared to those appointed earlier.

It added that half of all teachers under the age of 35 are now on temporary and/or part-time contracts.

As a result of casualisation, students are often taught by a succession of different teachers over the course of the Junior or Leaving Certificate cycles, the union said. 

It said the continuing block on filling responsibility positions such as year heads, and cuts to guidance counselling provision, have made it increasingly difficult for schools to support students struggling with educational or personal difficulties.

In response to the TUI decision, a Department of Education spokesperson pointed out that the education budget has increased in the last two budgets by more than €200m (€60m in Budget 2015 and €144m in Budget 2016).

"This has allowed, for instance, for a cut in the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level and second level, the employment of approximately 3,000 more teachers, and the enhancement of school leadership," said the spokesperson.

"The Department is also currently implementing reforms to tackle casualisation in the teacher profession. These changes allow fixed-term teachers to acquire permanent positions more easily and quickly, and enable part-time teachers to gain additional hours. 

"The Department is open to engaging with the TUI on issues of mutual concern in the context of their continuing co-operation with collective agreements," added the spokesperson.