The President of the Teachers' Union of Ireland has called for a campaign to replace the Lansdowne Road Agreement and the repeal of financial emergency legislation that underpinned cuts to pay and conditions for public servants.

Gerry Quinn told the TUI conference in Killarney that the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions should follow the TUI's example and lead a campaign for the repeal of the FEMPI Act and the replacement of the LRA, in order to lift what he called its intolerable restrictions and provide genuine pay and pension restoration.

He noted that the LRA was backed up by what he described as "draconian" FEMPI financial emergency legislation which gave the government the power to freeze increments for groups who did not accept a collective agreement.

He said the current talks between the union and the Department of Education and Skills on issues such as workload, underfunding, understaffing and income poverty of new entrants were not about the LRA. 

He told delegates that in the same way that the employers did not waste a good recession, the trade union movement must not waste a good recovery.

'Technology' merger will hit disadvantaged - TUI

The conference earlier heard that disadvantaged students in regional locations would be hit particularly badly if the government proceeds with its current plans to merge Institutes of Technology to create technological universities.

The TUI has already balloted its 4,000 members in Institutes of Technology for industrial action up to and including strike action in protest at the proposals and will cease cooperation with any merger activities from next Monday.

Addressing the union's annual conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, TUI Deputy General Secretary Annette Dolan said the union was not opposed to technological universities, but could not accept the way they were being created with requirement to merge before applying for Technological University status.

This was being done with no protection for conditions of service and no guarantees of course provision in the regions.

She said the TUI believes that the real agenda is cost reduction and rationalisation, which could diminish the quality of the education delivered to students, as well as jeopardising the jobs and conditions of members.

The union argues that under the Technological Universities Bill, which did not make it through the Dáil ahead of last month's General Election, Institutes of Technology will be forced to merge before making an application for Technical University status, with no guarantee of receiving that status afterwards.

Ms Dolan said members feared that this was a mechanism for cutting resources for the sector, which was already underfunded, adding that members would not buy a "pig in a poke".

She noted that €190 million had been stripped out of the Institutes of Technology sector, and staffing had fallen by 9.5% at a time when student numbers had risen by 32%.

She added that the lower points threshold for entry to Institutes of Technology meant that many of their students needed the extra support of staff to make it through to an honours degree.

However that was not possible under current resourcing, and could be contributing to the higher drop-out rates.

She also noted that many IT students came from a lower socio-economic background, and could not afford to move to a different part of the country if courses were rationalised under the merger proposals.

She said people had worn the green jersey for the austerity years, but that could not continue - and issues of workload triggered by cuts in resources would have to be addressed through additional funding for additional staff.

TUI Assistant General Secretary Aidan Kenny said in some classes students did not have resources including material and correct equipment to do experiments.

He said the average OECD student teacher ratio in the sector was 16 to 1, but the Irish sector has a ratio of 23 to 1.

Ms Dolan noted that with the current political numbers, there was an opportunity to lobby incoming politicians for significant revisions of the legislative proposals.

Both TUI officials criticised the lack of consultation with the union in relation to the merger.

'Demeaning' casualisation of teacher contracts criticised

The TUI has estimated that 30% or more of teachers are on temporary or part-time contracts, with that proportion rising to 50% among those aged under 35.

Speakers also noted that some teachers in second-level schools on low hour contracts had those hours allocated across several days, making it impossible to avail of supplementary employment elsewhere.

Anne Marie Courtney from Kerry told the conference that in 2007-2008,  a 16-hour  lecturer contract became available to staff at the Institute of Technology in Tralee when a staff member was seconded to a different position.

She said this contract was then converted into two separate contracts of nine hours each.

In 2014, the two nine hour contracts were further sub-divided into 17 contracts spread between ten staff members.

She said the luckiest person in the bunch got a six hour contract, while another got a contract for 2.25 teaching hours per week.

However,  many of the contracts were for one hour - with teachers given a contract of two half-hours.

Ms Courtney told the delegates that teachers, lecturers and the profession were being demeaned by casualisation.

TUI vice president Joanne Irwin told of a young teacher trying to survive on a contract for six teaching hours per week.

The six hours were timetabled over five days, meaning she did not have sufficient income to move out of home to live closer to her job.

The conference passed a motion condemning casualisation and demanding that management should prioritise increasing hours for people on low hours or part-time contracts before recruiting additional part time staff.

It also called for the annual publication of a list of employers that fail to augment working hours for low-hours teachers before advertising vacancies.