Home > Banks and the Economy, Croke Park Deal, Education > “Equality of Pay Talks”, Denise Diver

“Equality of Pay Talks”, Denise Diver

The National Public Services Alliance of which Paddy Healy is the primary spokesperson is I argue not just campaigning to reverse pay cuts but is also endeavoring to defend public services.
The underpinning ideology of the ‘Croke Park Deal’ is one which has been in the ascendancy since the late 1970s internationally. It demands a minimal role for the state in the provision of any necessary service. It is not just about pay, it is an ideological offensive against the idea of having a well-funded and functioning public service and promotes the privatisation and commercialisation of these services.
Pay cuts.
One contributor stated that she did not mind taking a pay cut “as long as I have enough”. That is fine if one has enough and is willing to do with less. The question I would like to pose is what will happen when pay is further reduced and this contributor does not have enough? The crux of the matter is that many people who have endured cuts in income,by direct pay cuts and the implementation of income and pension levies, do not have enough and are struggling to pay enormous mortgage repayments at this point in time.

I suggest that there is no evidence in history to show that when public sector workers endure pay cuts that it benefits the unemployed, schools, health service, or any other worthy group in society. In my opinion any saving made by budgetary cuts in the public sector will only subsidise the banks. This is worthy of another in depth discussion. Martin Wall refers to ‘informed sources’ who indicate that the Government would have to win any “battle over public sector pay”…”if it was to retain credibility with the bond markets” (IT , April 10, p. 13). Banks and bond markets are worthy of in depth analysis but for someone else or another time perhaps.

The pay cuts are serious not only for individuals but also for the wider economy. When pay is reduced either directly, or indirectly for those on modest to low incomes it means only one thing – they must, out of necessity, curtail their spending as their disposable income has diminished. A diminished income means a decrease in the amount of money being spent on consumer goods and services which inevitably leads to further pay cuts and job losses in other sectors of the economy. Are as many purchasing coffee ‘to go’, or buying the newspaper five days a week instead of seven?

Non pay cuts.
I work in the adult education service of a Vocational Education Committee and can only comment on my own observations of the impact of the cuts on those who are availing of the service. The linchpin of the VEC’s adult education services is social inclusion issues with around 95 per cent of adult education budget spent on second chance programmes for adults of low educational attainment. In my experience the overwhelming majority of those with low educational attainment are modest to low income workers, unemployed and older people.

The five per cent budget cuts affect the service, other than teachers pay, in the following ways:

1. Five per cent cut in student maintenance grants.
2. Travellers. The number of places provided in Senior Traveller Training Centres (STTCs) have been reduced by over 30 per cent from 984 to 684 places.
3. The Millennium Partnership Fund. This fund has been discontinued. It was primarily used by people from disadvantaged backgrounds who needed financial assistance for further and higher education.
4. Back to Education Initiative (BTEI): All new applicants who are in receipt of the Back to Education Allowance, and the Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme allowances for those pursuing Post Leaving Certificate courses, will no longer be eligible for student support maintenance grants. The BTEI was a response to Ireland’s very high proportion of the population aged 25- 64 who had less than upper secondary education in comparison to other European countries.
5. Community Education. The Adult Education Service also provides Community Education programmes, these courses may be accredited or not but the aim is to allow people in communities to avail of basic education courses in their communities. I taught on one of these courses in Tallaght last year. On week four we were told the course was cut to six weeks, due to financial constraints, instead of the twelve weeks it was supposed to run. The Community Education programme was a stepping stone for adults who may have left school at a very early age to pursue other courses at more advanced levels. These programmes were very cheap in that the only cost to the exchequer was the teacher’s hourly wage. The classes were usually held in community centres and other local amenities.
6. Adult Literacy. Many people volunteer to be tutors on the Adult Literacy programme. These volunteers must first attend a Adult Literacy Tutor Training Programme. However, the Adult Literacy organiser is currently on maternity leave and due to the public service recruitment embargo means that it was not possible to replace her. Consequently no adult literacy volunteer tutors will be trained this year in the geographical area where I work.

These are impacts on the service I have observed, not doubt there are others in the service I have not. But one things stands out . These cutback have impacted disproportionately on those at the lower end of the socio economic ladder than those at the top of that same ladder.
In my opinion learning should be transformative and emancipatory for the individual and society. A leading proponent of this concept, Paulo Freire, argued in his book Teachers as Cultural Workers – those who dare teach, that it is incumbent on us (teachers) to stand up not just for our own pay and conditions but for the students we teach.

“Teaching is a profession … that involves a specific task, a specific militancy (in the sense of advocating for students), and specific requirements for its implementation” (p.4).

The campaign is not just about reversing the pay cuts it is an attempt, I believe, to challenge the ideological offensive pursued by the Government. In my opinion education is one of the core constituents of an equality agenda and the Government’s offensive is aggressively and forcefully reversing the small gains made during the boom years. While I have only outlined the cuts I have observed, no doubt, the non pay cuts in other public services are also impacting disproportionally on modest to low income workers, unemployed and older people.

Another three billion in cuts are expected in 2011!!!

With kind regards
Denise Diver

  1. Bernie Ruane
    May 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I agree with Denise. This money unjustly stolen from Public Sector workers benefits only the banks. The Old and the young are being deprived of educational opportunity to bail out those who never invested in Education even when the country was awash with money. Vote NO to the Croke Park Agreement . If you answer NO to the following question Vote NO Q Do you trust this government ?”
    Answer ???????
    Bernie Ruane Vice President TUI

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