A statement posted on the INTO website yesterday evening (23/8) says that the “INTO has been working with officials from the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform throughout the summer to progress the loss of a qualification allowance by new entrants since 2012”. It claims that “progress had been made” but “nothing has been finalised as yet.”
Sounds promising, doesn’t it?
But, flick over to the TUI website and there’s quite a difference in tone. In a statement issued at more or less the same time TUI “expressed its deep frustration over the recent regrettable delay by Government Ministers in committing to a clear timeframe for the restoration of allowances for new and recent entrants to teaching” and went on to warn that they “may be forced to activate an existing mandate for industrial action should urgent and meaningful progress on this critical issue not be made.”
So who to believe – has ‘progress been made’ or is the government simply using delaying tactics in these talks?
And as much as I would love to think that progress has been made, unfortunately the track record of the INTO leadership, who are claiming progress, in these situations doesn’t read well.
In 2010 they campaigned for acceptance of the Croke Park Agreement. At the time I and others campaigned against CPA and pointed out that it referred to “no further reductions in the pay rates of serving public servants” and appeared to open the way to paycuts for new entrants. These paycuts happened in 2011 & 2012.
In 2013 they campaigned for acceptance of the Haddington Road Agreement.
In 2015 they campaigned for acceptance of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Both of these deals accepted the existence of 3 payscales. I and others campaigned against acceptance of these deals, one of our reasons being that they did not make any progress towards ending pay inequality or restoring the common pay scale, as had been directed by Congress.
The INTO leadership has always been one of the most eager advocates of these pay deals.
TUI on the other hand have usually been dragged kicking and screaming into them – as was the case with the LRA with the TUI only signing up to the deal before the summer (12 months later than INTO). Having done so, perhaps they are now seeing what being in there really means.
But it is by reading the statement issued by the DES earlier yesterday that we can really see what is going on. According to it, there have been a series of meetings to “scope out the issues relating to pay arrangements for newly qualified teachers recruited since 1 February 2012”. What does that even mean? – the issues are clear (we want full pay equalisation) and don’t need ‘scoping’.
But it goes on to say, quite pointedly, “This engagement has been taking place in the context of both unions’ acceptance of the Lansdowne Road Agreement” and “There is no mechanism for progressing the issue outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement.”
This is a very clear attempt to isolate and demonise ASTI, who have made a democratic decision to stay outside of the LRA and to progress their grievance in a different manner. Taken in tandem with the DES decision to ask individual TUI members to sign a document applying for payments due under the LRA (thereby allowing the DES to identify which teachers are members of ASTI and use the anti-union FEMPI legislation against them), it is clear what the DES agenda is.
INTO and TUI should not facilitate or participate in this DES attempt to use anti-union laws against ASTI. In recent years there has been much talk about teacher union unity. As recently as Congress 2012, then INTO president Noreen Flynn said in relation to teacher unity “It is indeed my hope that we will continue to move towards closer cooperation particularly in light of the unity among those who oppose the common agenda of all unions to work for a fairer future.” Given all that has happened since, that need for us to work together is surely even stronger now.
It has always been a basic trade union principle that members of one union would not undermine industrial action taken by another. INTO and TUI must extend that principle of solidarity to ASTI and nothing that we engage in should in any way undermine the industrial action that ASTI has embarked on. The DES might wish to use us to bully ASTI, we should not allow it to happen.
Earlier in the summer, concerns were expressed that ‘productivity’ might be on the table in these talks. Perhaps that’s what they’ve been ‘scoping’. But we need to be clear about 2 things.
- Any progress (if there has been some) is of course welcome but we will settle for nothing less than unconditional pay equalisation – for post-2011 and 2012 graduates. That means no productivity, no extra work.
- We cannot allow ‘progress’ to simply be a way of undermining ASTI and trying to whip them back into line.