Colleagues and invited guests I would like to welcome you to Wexford, to TUI Annual Congress 2018. Colleagues, you will know that TUI is a campaigning Union, a broad-based Union informed by our guiding principles of equity, social justice and empowerment of the profession. We have worked hard in the past year to protect and advance the interests of members but also to protect and enhance the quality of public education at all levels.
We will always promote change that benefits the education system. For example, we welcome the increase in apprenticeship enrolment numbers. Institutes of Technology are now witnessing a significant demand for places. The quality and standards of the apprenticeship system need to be maintained, the Irish system is world class.
Let’s be clear about it, how you value quality of any kind is shown by how you value the profession and that in turn is shown by how you pay the profession.
The campaign continues - we must and will press further. The insult of pay inequality remains. Our colleagues and friends first appointed on or after 1st January 2011 are still suffering discrimination. Government, it seems, will only be brought kicking and screaming to its senses. If it must be so then so be it. We would much prefer that they would be persuaded by the demands of justice but if that does not happen we have other means to persuade them.
The discriminatory pay system put in place by our political masters is not simply morally wrong, it is patently counterproductive and regressive. It is damaging an indispensable part of our social and economic infrastructure – our excellent public education system. It is hurting not only our teachers but also our students. To the Minister, to government, I say that there is no shame, no defeat in recognising and addressing an injustice. Eliminating this blight would demonstrate strength, not weakness, would provide moral leadership – because it is a moral imperative to eradicate injustice. We would ask the Minister to be the Minister he should be – the Minister for Education.
Rejection of PSSA
The Union’s Executive Committee which recommended early and clearly to members not to accept the PSSA on the basis of its failure to provide for a fair and sustainable resolution of the pay parity issue.
TUI members did indeed reject it, with a very significant 87% voting against it. Significant also was the fact that the Agreement was rejected by our sister unions – the INTO and the ASTI.
However, notwithstanding opposition of the teacher unions, the PSSA was accepted by the overall majority of unions affiliated to the Public Services Committee of the ICTU, at the meeting of the PSC on 18th September. The TUI reiterated our long-standing position that we do not consider ourselves to be bound by the aggregate vote at the PSC and that it is the sovereign right of the TUI to determine for itself what view to take of agreements such as the PSSA.
I want to make it absolutely clear, contrary to some misconceptions, that that remains our position. It was on this basis that the TUI attended the meeting in October under Section 4 of the PSSA. Attendance did not - and does not - signify or imply acceptance of the PSSA. The TUI has not accepted the Agreement and nobody at the meeting in October, on either side of the table, was left in any doubt about that fact. It is also the case colleagues that the TUI has not repudiated the PSSA. We would be foolish to stamp on our own foot, to cut off our nose to spite our face.
We have also tirelessly worked to achieve the greatest possible degree of co-ordination and co-operation with our sister unions and are pleased to have a joint motion to present to Congress for your consideration. Alone we can only do so much; together with our colleagues in the ASTI and INTO we can do so much more.
We already have a mandate to be used if and when necessary. Our sister unions will as a consequence of the joint motion, if it is accepted, ask their members to provide a similar mandate.
However colleagues, as you well know, a huge impediment to further progress remains because of the failure to date of the DES to implement what is manifestly part of the May 2016 Agreement – re-designation of the second flex hour. I won’t waste my words or your time on this matter colleagues. You are being balloted and the outcome is not in doubt. I assume that you know the score. So does the DES and management.
From September you will be available for commensurate duties within contract but you will not be teaching the flex hour. The DES and management have said that they hope to proceed with re-designation. Let them do so. Time is up on this matter.
Adult and Further Education
In respect of adult and further education, the union has also ensured that implementation of measures set out in agreements continued in 2017, if not always at the desired pace. It must be said, in fairness to all concerned, that most of the delay that occurred was as a consequence of unforeseen technical complications and a determination by all parties to ensure that the available benefits were optimised for the relevant members.
During the course of the analysis in the BTEI conversion process an issue arose in relation to the impact of conversion on members’ pension entitlements which required further discussions between the TUI, the DES and ETBI.
We are keenly aware that the delay was very frustrating for the members concerned but we had a clear obligation to ensure that we got the best possible outcome from those further discussions. The discussions concluded in February and resulted in:
- the introduction of a third option - to remain ‘as-is’ (i.e. with current terms and conditions)
- Confirmation that a BTEI ‘Tutor’ who converts to a Teacher (unqualified) will be paid the appropriate hourly rate for teachers as set out in Department circulars.
We have agreed the next steps, implementation will be on a phased basis.
Notwithstanding the timing of conversion of any individual employee based on this phasing arrangement, conversion, in every case, will apply with effect from the 1st July 2016 - in strict accordance with the May 2016 agreement. The benefit from that date is guaranteed.
Adult Education Tutors
Colleagues, negotiations, involving the TUI, the DES and SIPTU, in relation to Phase 1 of the Chairman’s Note on LRA – the awarding of CIDs to ‘tutors’, concluded in the WRC in May 2017 resulting in the issuing of CL65/2017 in October 2017. This circular deals with one matter only, albeit a very important one - the awarding of CIDs.
Phase 2 discussions, under the auspices of the WRC, in relation to the terms and conditions for ‘tutors’ are ongoing with a further engagement planned for next Monday – 9th April.
Colleagues, rest assured that this trade union recognises and deplores the precarious employment and inferior terms and conditions endured by our members in the Adult and Further Education sector. We will do our utmost in these negotiations to secure an acceptable and successful outcome.
Affected members should also be reassured that they will have a final say, as any proposals that may emanate from the discussions will be decided upon by a ballot of members.
Colleagues, it seems likely that significant developments may be in prospect in respect of Youthreach. With this is mind, not least because of the current review by SOLAS of the Youthreach programme, TUI established a working group of Youthreach Co-Ordinators, Resource Persons and Teachers to advise on our submission for the review. Drawing on this consultation with members, as well as on existing TUI policy, surveys and congress motions, we finalised and forwarded our submission to SOLAS. We have now been invited to attend consultation workshops on the Evaluation of the National Youthreach Programme which will take place later this month.
The union is unequivocal in its view that Youthreach has been poorly served by the Department because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the role it actually serves. It has been regarded as a sin-bin rather than an invaluable element of the public teaching service. The stubborn refusal to recognise that what co-ordinators and resource persons do as teaching defies logic and reality.
Our key aim in TUI is to bring the Department to a recognition of that reality. To that end, in September we brought our demand to the TCC where we were told that the Council did not have jurisdiction in relation to grades other than teacher and that, as far as the Department was concerned, we could not use the TCC to advance the matter. The TUI told the Council that in raising the matter there we were asserting our belief that what happens in Youthreach is teaching. We have since raised the matter at the ETB IR Forum, where it awaits consideration.
On behalf of the Union, I sincerely thank each and every one of you here today. The Union in general and I, in particular, genuinely appreciate that you all have given of your time to represent the members in your branches.
Colleagues and guests, you are welcome to this Annual Congress of the TUI.