Home > Croke Park Deal, Education > “We must reject this ‘deal’” – Mark Walshe, ASTI, Dublin North

“We must reject this ‘deal’” – Mark Walshe, ASTI, Dublin North

We must reject this ‘deal’
The boom years

During the boom years, it seemed that teachers were doing better. There were modest
pay increases. However, the ‘social partnership’ deals that awarded these increases
led to a significant erosion of our conditions. From 2004, new entrants to the
profession have to work an extra five years before retirement. In 2008, the second
Benchmarking report quantified the value of public sector pensions over those in the
private sector at 12 per cent and therefore did not award a pay increase.

The economic crisis
Since the economic crisis struck, there has been an all out attack on our pay and
conditions. In 2009, in the third attack on public service pensions in five years, the
Government cut our pay by around 7 per cent by imposing a ‘pension levy’ on the
basis of a lie that we did not contribute to our pensions. Next came the moratorium on
Posts of Responsibility (PORs), which meant an additional cut of up to 7.5 per cent
for some. And then at the end of the year they imposed a pay cut of approximately 6
per cent.

If we add up what has been taken specifically from teachers in recent years, it
amounts to a pay cut of 25 per cent for most (12 + 7 + 6) and up to 32.5 per cent for
potential holders of PORs. New entrants have to work for an extra five years. There
have been changes to uncertified sick leave. And of top of all that we have had the
education cutbacks which not only have a hugely detrimental impact on our students
but also negatively impact on our working conditions. The worsening of the pupil–
teacher ratio has meant hundreds of job losses for teachers who are now on social
welfare or are forced to emigrate to find employment.

Finally, none of these figures include the increases in general taxation due to the
health and income levies, which total 4 per cent. This brings the total loss of income
alone to between at least 29 and 36.5 per cent.

The current ‘deal’
If all of that wasn’t enough, we are now being asked to pile up the rest of our
conditions onto a bonfire and to light the match ourselves by voting ‘Yes’ to this
extraordinary ‘deal’. The ‘deal’ is contained in two documents, the Public Service
Agreement 2010–2014 and Part 2: Sectoral Agreements, which contains the
Education Sectoral Agreement. These will be referred to as PSA and ESA below.
For the education sector, then, the deal proposes:
1. A comprehensive review and revision of the teaching contract to be completed
before the start of the 2010/11 school year (ESA, page 9)
2. Increments to be based on performance: “… promotion and incremental
progression linked in all cases to performance” (PSA, paragraph 13)
3. Availability for three periods a week under the Supervision & Substitution
scheme (ESA, page 9)
4. An additional hour’s work a week to be used at the discretion of management
(ESA, page 9)
5. Full cooperation with new redeployment procedures from June 2010 (ESA,
page 9)
6. The continuation of the ban on promotion to PORs: “… the moratorium on …
promotion in the public service… will continue to apply…” (PSA, paragraph
5)
7. The pension scheme for new entrants to the profession will be changed with
consultations to “conclude in time for legislation to be enacted to allow for the
introduction of the scheme on 1 January 2011” (PSA, paragraph 17)
8.No cost-increasing claims by trade unions or employees for improvements in
pay and conditions of employment will be made during the currency of the
agreement”
(PSA, paragraph 27)
9. No-strike clause: “Strikes or other forms of industrial action… are precluded
in respect of any matters covered by this Agreement…” (PSA, paragraph 27)

Why we should reject the ‘deal’

Many of these points speak for themselves. In summary, the Government wants:

•to revise our existing employment contract, which can only mean a worsening
of the terms of our employment (a recent OECD report found that we had one
of the lowest number of hours at 167 days per year)

•to bring in performance-related pay, with the possibility of senior colleagues
and/or management deciding whether or not we get our increments

•to make already overworked teachers work at least an additional hour,
possibly more when the increases to the S&S scheme are taken into account

•to end the possibility of promotion for the next four years

•to further undermine our pension entitlements by worsening the conditions for
new entrants; by increasing the retirement age initially to 66; and by breaking
the link between increases in pensions for serving and retired teachers
(breaking ‘pension parity’) — all of which would seriously undermine inter-
generational solidarity and unity within the profession

•to get us to agree to ‘industrial peace’, which effectively means giving up our
right to take industrial action to defend our interests over the next four years

If we were to agree to this ‘deal’, it would give the Government carte-blanche to
completely undermine our conditions of service and it would emasculate our trade
union. In turn, that weakened position would make us powerless in the face of future
threats to our pay and conditions and cutbacks to the education service we are
committed to providing.

What our union leaders will argue
Our union leaders will argue that they have negotiated the best deal possible in the
current circumstances. It is astounding that they can describe this in any way as a
good deal. Their hope appears to be that we will vote ‘Yes’ out of fear that the
Government might cut pay further later this year. The document contains a ‘promise’
that there would be no further pay cuts until 2014 (PSA, paragraph 15) and that there
would be a pay review in Spring 2011 (PSA, paragraph 16).

However, there are several reasons why we cannot trust the Government to keep its
word:

1. The implementation of the agreement is subject to “no currently unforeseen
budgetary deterioration.
” (PSA, paragraph 28). This is effectively a get-out
clause for the Government. If and when there is a worsening of the economic
crisis, that is, worse than what is already foreseen, then they can claim
‘inability to pay’. Indeed, the Government reneged on the last pay deal when it
refused, due to the economic crisis, to pay the increases negotiated in August
2008.
2. There is no guarantee to reverse the ‘pension levy’ and the pay cuts and the
proposed pay review starting in Spring 2011 is conditional on ‘savings’ being
made across the public service. There are no criteria for how those savings
might be measured, so the Government could always argue that they were
never enough to justify returning some of the pay cuts. In any case, the ‘deal’
appears quite contradictory on this point as it states: “… no cost-increasing
claims… for improvements in pay and conditions… will be made or processed
during the currency of the Agreement.
” (PSA, paragraph 27)
3. One of the main assumptions of the deal is that everything that has been done
to public sector workers, and what is proposed to be done in this new ‘deal’,
represents a “contribution to the return of economic growth and prosperity.”
(PSA, paragraph 1) Even if we were to accept the idea that cutting the deficit
were the route to the return of economic growth, all of the cuts to public sector
wages will reduce the deficit by a mere 0.3 per cent of GDP by 2014.
(‘Cutting Public Sector Pay and Jobs — the High Cost of Irrelevance’ by
Michael Taft, Economic Adviser to Unite, The Recession Diaries, 11 March
2010)
4. The enormous cost of bailing out the banks will mean more and more of our
taxes pouring into zombie banks which will leave fewer and fewer resources
for public services such as education.

Conclusion
This is the worst deal ever to have come out of the ‘social partnership’ process. It is so
bad that the employers’ organisation IBEC might have negotiated something better
for teachers. We have nothing to gain by voting Yes and nothing to lose by voting No.
By voting No, we have the opportunity to rebuild the strength of our trade union so
that we can really defend ourselves against future Government attacks. This does not
necessarily mean immediate “all-out industrial war.” That is just scaremongering by
our trade union leaders whose credibility is now on the line over their disastrous
‘strategy’ over the past 18 months.
We need to have a rational and considered assessment of where we go from here to
seriously defend our pay and conditions, unhindered by our current trade union
leaders.
Mark Walshe
ASTI, Dublin North 1 branch
2 April 2010

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Categories: Croke Park Deal, Education
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