Home > Croke Park Deal, Education > Joe O’Toole Supports Croke Park Deal – My reply

Joe O’Toole Supports Croke Park Deal – My reply


Public sector reform deal is the best we can hope for says NUI Senator

Joe does not mention the requirement to negotiate changed teaching contracts for teachers and lecturers or the agreement to the continued elimination of posts of responsibility in schools and large numbers of lecturing posts at third level or the damage to collegiality–

Senator Joe O’Toole represents NUI graduates in Seanad. Eireann. He is a former primary school principal, former general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation, and a former President of ICTU. In the most recent election to Seanad Eireann he was nominated by David Begg, General Secretary of ICTU.
Joe is recommending a “yes” vote to the Croke Park Deal

Members of TUI, ASTI and Irish Federation of University Teachers have voted strongly against the Deal. UNITE which represents lecturers in University of Limerick has voted against the DEAL. The Dublin based Education Branch of SIPTU has recommended a” no” vote as has the Academic Section of SIPTU at NUIG

INTO executive recommended acceptance and the members voted in favour though 35% voted “no”.
The only arguments made by Joe (Irish Times, 7 May) in support of the deal is that there is “hope” that pay losses may be restored and union leaders will be able to “influence” changes in the public service.
He makes no mention of the requirement to negotiate changed teaching contracts under pain of continued pay reduction. The failure of the DEAL to halt the wholesale elimination of posts of responsibility in primary and secondary education and the provision in the agreement to make all teachers carry out the duties as additional unpaid work. The huge ongoing reduction in numbers of lecturers at third level and the provision in the agreement to force remaining lecturers to carry out the duties of the unreplaced go unmentioned. The threat to tenure and academic freedom from the redeployment provisions of the agreement goes unrecorded. In a word the Croke Park deal is to be used together with the moratorium on recruitment to devastate the education system, seriously worsen conditions of service and to replace collegiality with managerialism. It would be too much to expect Joe to mention a 4year pay and pension freeze no matter how steep the increase in consumer price index!!
As this is the effect of the deal negotiated by ICTU Public Service leaders, it is clear that public servants would be far better served by depending on their own unions and foregoing the “influence” of ICTU in discussing changes in the public service.

But Joe is well aware of the huge increase in the workload of teachers and the large cuts in education provision inherent in the DEAL. He has state on record:“I met Batt O’Keeffe (Minister for Education) and Mary Harney(Minister for Health) during the talks(Nov/Dec 2009) and they were both salivating at the prospect of getting at the things in the union documents on offer—We are very near an agreement (in current talks) because  the deal was virtually done last December.” Senator Joe O’Toole, Former President ICTU on RTE, Marion Finucane, Sunday March 22 urging Government to accept the ICTU offer to Government in December 2009 which became the Croke Park Deal.

But the approach of Joe is not surprising. Teachers will remember his infamous statement in the context of the ASTI dispute. “Benchmarking is just an ATM machine” Senator Joe O’Toole rubbishing the attempt of ASTI to achieve a catch up pay rise outside of Benchmarking which incorporated industrial style productivity dealing in the public service. IBEC have not ceased to quote the statement of Joe since then as part of a campaign for pay reductions in public service. The effect of the statement was to give comfort and ammunition to the enemies of the public service.

Irish Times Fri, May 07, 2010
OPINION: The Croke Park deal on pay and reform is grim but a yes vote will keep the unions in an influential position, writes JOE O’TOOLE 
PUBLIC SECTOR workers deciding how to respond to the Croke Park deal find themselves in a conundrum. Inherently they want to do the right thing but they feel it is unfair that they, and private sector colleagues, should have to shoulder the financial consequences of the greedy and reckless policies of our former icons.
It is impossible to contradict those who maintain that it’s the worst deal ever they saw. I’m with them in that assessment. As agreements go this one has to be at the bottom of the pile.
Add to that the fact that there is a complete breakdown of trust and confidence in the Government and, above all, there is a ferocious anger towards it and a firm desire to give the Government a bloody nose and it becomes apparent why it has so few champions.
It was a young teacher who put it at its simplest to me. “I just don’t trust this Government. I don’t believe them and I’m going to vote against the deal. I distrust anything proposed by this Government. Why should we do anything to accommodate them?”
And she had a solid point, reflective of thousands of public servants who find themselves in exactly the same space.
Intuitively I want to lash out against this deal too but strategically I come to a different conclusion. . Some union members are of the belief that they can vote “no”, keep the head down and there will be no change. Unfortunately, not so. The only certainty in all of this is that, whether the vote be won or lost, the Government will have to continue to make savings in public service costs at the next budget. Another certainty is that only after those savings are made can there be any chance of regaining some of the lost pay.
Union members are faced with choices which, though unattractive, are very clear. They can be represented around the table, influencing and informing crucial decisions regarding the timing and implementation of public service reform and fighting for pay restoration. On the other hand they can be involved in a less-than-attractive long-term campaign of action against the Government, seeking the reversal of cuts.
Which is best then? The certain pain and possible gain of such a campaign or the certain advantages from a negotiated set of outcomes as posited in the agreement.
The agreement, bad as it is, does offer hope, opportunity and influence. Hope that we have hit the bottom of pay cuts; an opportunity to begin the reclamation of what we have lost; a chance to have an influence in shaping the direction of public service reorganisation.
As regards paying back the Government, voting against the agreement is not the way. There will be other opportunities to do that. The general election is around the corner.
Public servants with more secure employment and good pensions are easy targets. They rarely see their contribution publicly acknowledged. As with many in the private sector, their pay cuts have been savage and devastating and, like most of the population, every euro of monthly income is spoken for by way of direct debits, standing orders or ordinary living expenses.
Unlike our bankers, these were undertakings honestly entered into on the basis of certainty of income and security of employment. Now, with net pay cut, those public servants, like their private sector colleagues, are struggling to cope and worrying about more cuts and rising interest rates.
The uncertainty is terrorising. If they could truly believe that the deal would end pay cuts and begin a process of reclaiming lost income then they would flock to it.
In that regard, the immediate challenge to the Government is to authenticate its bona fides. To bolster up the deal, politicians must win the trust and confidence of the voting trade union members and convince us of their commitment to both the spirit and letter of the Croke Park document.
If public servants could truly bank the pay assurances in the agreement then there would be a solid level of support.
We’re not being served up a great-looking dish from Croke Park. Hard to find much meat in it and there’s little enthusiasm for the veggies, only the hope that the pudding will be better when it arrives.
It is a big ask but, unappetising as it is, these proposals are the best we can expect just now. And, if we can make them work, not only will we be the winners but also the country and the economy. Voting “no” offers no protection whatever. Voting “yes” at worst offers a sporting chance of beginning the reclamation of lost ground. Let’s go for it..

Letter to Irish Times
Public sector pay and conditions
Sat, May 08, 2010
Madam, – I’m incensed by Joe O’Toole’s assessment of the Croke Park deal (Opinion, May 7th). He quotes a young teacher, whose objections to the deal are based purely on mistrust of the Government – and by extension, not logic, and he goes on to imply that opposition to the deal is a lash-out, knee-jerk reaction.
He also implies that public service interests will not be represented when reform happens, if the agreement is not ratified – the alternative being prolonged industrial action. This is just scaremongering nonsense, based on the false premise that this agreement is the only option open to the public service. This is not only spurious, it is dishonest and wrong. Why was this deal brokered in the first place? It was certainly not negotiated in the interests of the rank and file union membership. The connivance of the ICTU leadership with this Government has manufactured a situation where workers are forced to vote on an agreement that should not exist.
This deal offers workers nothing. This is a Government- sponsored document which bestows draconian powers on employers and Dickensian conditions of employment on employees. If passed, this deal will have dire consequences for all workers in this country, and not just those of us in the public service. – Yours, etc,
RICHARD HOLLINSHEAD,
Hazelhatch Park,
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
© 2010 The Irish Times

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