Quinn warns teachers they are endangering job-for-life status

Minister urges the ASTI to examine costs of its action to its members

Secondary school teachers have been warned by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn that they risk losing their job-for-life protection by rejecting the Haddington Road agreement.

Mr Quinn said the decision by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) to remain outside the agreement, and to withdraw from existing commitments, meant that its protections and benefits, including those relating to security of tenure, were not available to their members.

“This will be a matter of concern to many teachers and underlines the strong case for reconsideration by the ASTI,’’ he added.

Speaking in the Dáil last night, Mr Quinn urged the ASTI to examine the costs of its action to members and reflect on the matter, particularly given the non-implementation of the agreement would have the greatest impact on young, newly qualified teachers.


“It is also very much in the interests of the education system, and the country, that we are united in addressing the real financial challenges that we still face,’’ he added.

Mr Quinn said it had always been the Government’s preference to have a negotiated agreement on how to achieve the savings required from the public pay bill.

“I am, therefore, extremely disappointed that the ASTI has not accepted the agreement – the only public service union to have taken that position,’’ he added.

As Minister, he said, he had an abiding respect for the valuable role played by teachers in sustaining the well-being of the country.

'Industrial discontent'
Mr Quinn was replying to Fianna Fáil education spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who said the Minister should intervene and seek to have the proposed industrial action deferred. This would give the Labour Relations Commission an opportunity to intervene to explore if there were any areas which could be clarified in the context of the agreement. Parents and pupils were facing a winter of industrial discontent, he added.

The threatened industrial action, he said, would cause serious disruption in schools from next week and would lead to difficulties in areas such as reform of the Junior Certificate.

“I do not think it is going to be good enough, over the next day at a time, to have aerial communication between the Government and the ASTI,’’ he added.

Mr Quinn said he would like to see a resolution of the disagreement, adding that while the ASTI was on its own, its importance to the system was not without significance.

He added that secondary school teachers now had to reflect on where they were before any kind of communication, with the prospects of a successful outcome, could begin.

'Wider context'
He said it was a public sector-wide agreement and not a dispute between the Minister and one teacher union. "It fits into a wider context and I have to have respect for that context,'' he added.

Mr Quinn said the State was still in a very serious financial and budgetary situation and had to meet the very stringent public deficit targets placed on the Irish exchequer by the troika. “Savings must be made in every area of public spending and a proportionate element of those savings must come from the public service pay and pensions bill,’’ he added.

Mr Quinn said the Government had sought to reach an agreement allowing substantial costs to be extracted and enhanced public service productivity to the benefit of all those who relied on public services, while also ensuring that savings were achieved in a way that was broadly equitable and that impacted most on those who were best able to afford it.

He said the principle of making sure that the burden was shared by all sectors, and that those on more pay would pay more, was paramount in the discussions leading to the agreement’s formulation.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times