More than 30 Clare-based teachers attended the annual Congress of the Irish National Teachers Organisation in Sligo this week.
Seán McMahon, the Central Executive Representative for the INTO in Clare claimed “education is under attack on so many fronts while teachers themselves are grappling with paycuts, attacks on our pensions and bleak employment prospects for our young teachers”.
The agenda for congress included motions on cutbacks in special education, small schools, teacher unemployment, pay and pensions.
Speaking at the congress on the Croke Park Agreement, Mr McMahon, who is principal of Mullagh NS, warned that further pay cuts for teachers will lead to a ballot for industrial action.
Mr McMahon added, “Placing the burden for private sector folly on the shoulders of public servants including teachers would be resisted.”
He claimed that citizens must exercise their right to say “this far and no further” about cuts to public service pay.
He said if the government further cuts the pay of public servants and teachers then the Croke Park Agreement is over and the union should immediately ballot all members for a sustained campaign of industrial action, including the withdrawal of labour.
He said colleagues in the other teaching unions had undergone a conversion to the INTO’s perspective.
“In certain cases this conversion has been quite close to Damascus, with key speakers who were virulently opposed to agreement now proclaiming that Croke Park is the way forward and must be protected,” he claimed.
He said the agreement is delivering savings and reforms. “There are 14,000 fewer public servants. By the end of this year, there will be 19,000 fewer. This is more than 75% of the target of 25,000 fewer public servants set out in the national recovery plan.”
In addition, he said the pension levy and pay cuts had sliced €1.8 billion off the pay bill last year as individual public servants saw take-home pay slashed by an average of 14%.
But he told the conference that in spite of these very significant reductions, “services have been maintained and in some cases expanded”. He said productivity had increased because “we are getting more work for less money and fewer people”.