Primary school teachers are to call on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to hold a day of action before June to defend public services and jobs.

At their annual conference in Letterkenny, delegates backed a motion on a day of action and condemned what they called a campaign of vilification against the pay and conditions of public service employees.

They also supported the withdrawal of support for modernisation measures in schools in the event of an extended pay freeze.

Earlier, there was a frosty reception for Minister for Education Batt O'Keeffe from teachers at the conference.

Click here for the full text of his speech

The Minister was greeted with silence as he arrived and his speech was punctuated by loud moans and derisive laughter at times.

Around 30 delegates walked out, others held up posters highlighting some the issues that have provoked their anger - the pensions levy, the lost of teaching posts and the abolition of special needs classes.

When the Minister ended, there was only applause from the front row of invited guests.

Speaking on RTE's News at One, Mr O'Keeffe said he understood teachers' anger but co-operation was needed in difficult economic times.

Later, delegates gave a standing ovation to INTO General Secretary John Carr when he spoke of the bitter resentment felt by teachers as their pockets were picked to bail-out bankers, speculators and developers.

To loud and frequent applause, Mr Carr said children were paying the price for a few capitalist criminals.

Last night, INTO President Declan Kelleher accused the Government of being dictated to by the employers' group IBEC and the right-wing at the expense of ordinary workers.

Mr Kelleher was addressing delegates at the INTO's annual conference.

Yesterday evening, Mr Kelleher got a standing ovation when he warned 'the Government would reap its reward'.

He said teachers were prepared to pay their fair share but, in the meantime, the rich were getting off scot-free.

Strike action an option for TUI

Delegates at the Teachers' Union of Ireland conference in Cork have voted unanimously to have strikes as one of the options they might take as part of their campaign of opposition to cutbacks.

The TUI vote in favour of possible strike action was passed this afternoon on the first day of the union's three-day conference.

After a debate in which many of the 400 delegates spoke strongly against Government cutbacks in education, the motion outlining the effects of the cutbacks and committing the TUI to an ongoing campaign of opposition was passed.

The union's executive now has the mandate for protest actions, lobbying of politicians and political candidates, non-co-operation with work practice changes imposed as cost-saving measures, and industrial action, including work-to-rule.

The conference further commits the TUI that in the event of cuts in the agreed timetabling allowances in the IT sector, branches concerned will immediately conduct a ballot for industrial action.

TUI General Secretary Peter McMenamin told delegates that there is major disagreement with the Department of Education about how many teaching jobs will be lost because of cutbacks.

He said the union believes 1,200 jobs will be lost at second level while the Minister of Education contends that around 200 will be lost.

Minister O'Keefe is due to address the conference tomorrow.

Secondary teachers at the ASTI conference in Killarney have given overwhelming support for motions condemning the latest education cutbacks.

Delegates heard that the second level education system would suffer detrimental damage as a result of the cuts.