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TUI conference reaffirms opposition to Public Service Agreement

27 September 2010

A special delegate conference of TUI members last weekend reaffirmed the union’s opposition to the Public Service Agreement.  Below we preset a number of documents relating to conference. 

TUI special conference – a limited victory for the rank and file
Resolution of Special Delegate Conference
TUI Members for a Democratic Union statement

TUI special conference – a limited victory for the rank and file

Ann Conway

TUI leaders held a special conference on Saturday 25th September in any attempt to join many other sections of the trade union ‘opposition’ by signing up to the Croke park deal and accepting on the restrictions, wage cuts and cutbacks associated with it.  They were largely beaten back, but a political opposition has yet to emerge in the union.

The outcome of the special conference was regarded by delegates who opposed the Executive motion as a victory of sorts. It for the time being stayed the hand of the paid officials in entering talks with government but it was also regarded as a temporary respite. The contributions from delegates opposed to the Executive motion centred on maintaining Directives such as parent-teacher and staff meetings outside school hours and the re-shuffling of middle management posts resulting from the embargo on promotional posts. An amendment that the Union suspends the current directives for the duration of the talks relating to the public service agreementwas seen by delegates as the critical motion of the conference. It this motion was passed then Head office would be free to discuss the CP Deal with the Department of Education and Skills. This motion was defeated by 230 to 146. The General Secretary reported that the Department of Education and Skills informed the union that in order to enter into intensive negotiations the current directives had to be suspended. The Special Delegate Conference was held early to facilitate the Departments timescale and this was regarded by delegates as clear evidence that the TUI Head office wanted to enter negotiations with the Government on the Croke Park deal. The majority of delegates regarded removing the Directives as tearing up their contracts and conditions of employment, leading to every Directive being open to negotiation and subsequent removal.

One positive aspect of the conference was the sizeable number of delegates who fiercely opposed the content of the Croke Park Deal. There was palpable anger amongst delegates with the executive split on the issue. In the vote a majority of executive members voted against the amendment to suspend lifting the directives. Even some delegates who supported suspending the directives stated they were opposed to the CP deal but that they had to be realistic.  The behaviour of the union leadership of marching members around in circles and taking industrial action only to renter talks with Government before members had left the picket lines has left members disorientated and demoralized.

The fact that the debate centred mainly around the Directives shows a real weakness by delegates and misunderstanding of the task facing them.  A motion from a Dublin City branch calling for a campaign against the bail out of Anglo Irish and a wealth tax was ruled out of order and not ruled back into order by conference. It needed a two thirds majority to be debated, a rule which was itself regarded as out of order by delegates. There was a good deal of heavy handed chairing by the new TUI President and the conference was regarded by many delegates as being a farce.

A much clearer understanding of the obstacles facing them is necessary if TUI conference delegates who opposed the sell out on Croke Park hope to build support among union members and gain support of other union members against the Deal.  To create unity with other workers who want to resist requires addressing the major problems with the Deal - the destruction of jobs and services, a 4 year pay freeze and a ban on strikes. Addressing the embargo on recruitment would create unity with student teachers and graduates and other workers wanting to work in the public service. None of these issues were addressed nor was the collusion of the ICTU trade union bureaucracy in delivering the Deal dealt with.  Building opposition to CP Deal based on meetings between the Executives of the unions opposed to the Deal is completely inadequate as in reality no union is actively opposing the Deal. The fact that the head of the Labour relations Commission was involved in constructing the deal and called it a revolutionary document underlines the weakness of going down the road of conciliation and arbitration. TUI leaders are clamouring to get back into talks. There was real mistrust among delegates of the leadership.

Some important issues were addressed in a leaflet distributed calling for a campaign for a democratic union. It received a very positive response from delegates who saw this as a key issue facing the membership. 

Resolution of Special Delegate Conference

1.   This conference reaffirms Tui’s opposition to the Public Service Agreement.

2.   This Conference instructs the Executive Committee to maximise co-operation with other unions opposed to the Public Service Agreement and immediately to initiate meetings to take place before the budget in 2010 of our Executive with the Executives of these unions.

3.   This Conference instructs the Executive Committee to maintain the current Directives until and unless our members agree to a settlement of the related grievances following consideration at a special or
annual congress.

4.   TUI declares that it will respond to any proposal for change put down by the employer side solely through the C&A scheme/IOT IR forum in the normal way. The framework for negotiation, facilitation and
arbitration shall not be the provisions of the Public Service Agreement (Croke Park Deal). Under no circumstances shall binding arbitration be accepted by TUI.

5.   Participation in any such discussion does not imply TUI’s acceptance of the Public Service Agreement.

6.   The result to be put to a special congress for consideration before being put to a ballot of the appropriate members after the budget in 2010.

7.   Further the Executive Committee is instructed to prepare a contingency plan to deal with any attempt to unilaterally impose the Public Service Agreement through circular letters.

Campaign for a Democratic Union statement

•       The Teachers Union of Ireland membership has rejected the Croke Park Agreement through a democratic vote and everything since this decision has been an endorsement of our judgment.

•       The CP Agreement not only accepted the cuts already implemented but endorses Government budgetary strategy for the next 4 years which promises further cuts, which now plan to be even greater than when the deal was agreed. Given the spectacular failure of the government economic strategy why are we today discussing endorsing this failed strategy?

•       Why are we not meeting to discuss how we implement our earlier decision?  Why are we not debating how we can resist the cuts already planned and those about to be inflicted?

•       Why is our union signalling acceptance of Government strategy through entering negotiations on implementing the CP Agreement?  This strategy is now being openly criticized by the international financial
press, including the ‘Financial Times.’  Why would we now attempt to endorse it?

•       Congress mandates appear to be meaningless if the leadership don’t agree with them. The conference today is being asked to tear up decisions voted on by the Annual Congress and ignore the rejection of the TUI membership of the CP agreement.

•       Today we are being asked to accept that the role of trade unions is implementing cuts in order to facilitate the bank bail out.  This is a bank bail out that is seen more and more, even by international
finance, as unsustainable and threatens the very solvency of the State.

•       Annual Congress in April voted to organize a national campaign against the bank bailout yet there is no sign of any such campaign from TUI head office. We demand the implementation of Congress

•       More than ever we need unions to defend our futures not to collude with the ruinous policy of this discredited Government.

•       If you are interested in campaigning for a union which is democratic and accountable to its members and where officials are elected and have salaries comparable to the general membership, then support the
establishment of a Campaign for a Democratic Union. We urgently need a democratic fighting union.

Initiated by TUI Members for a Democratic Union


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