After years of accepting austerity, recent months have shown that Ireland’s workers are waking up and ready to fight. From teachers to transport workers to nurses, rumblings of discontent are escalating into a major fight against Government imposed pay restraint and attempts to continue with a policy that means low pay, unequal conditions and continuous demands for productivity.
While the Government policy is under threat with more and more groups demanding an end to Fempi (Financial Emergency measures) legislation, the strike of the teachers’ union ASTI is the most important industrial battle we have seen in many years.
ASTI have balloted to reject the productivity measures of the Lansdowne Road agreement that forced all public sector worker to, among other things, effectively work many hours for free. But because they are now outside of the restraints of that deal, they have also voted to strike against the pay and conditions of newly qualified teachers.
All across the public service thousands of newly recruited workers have suffered dramatic cuts in pay and conditions. Workers doing the exact same job have huge difference s in pay because of the deals previously agreed and because of Government imposed cuts in starting salaries. For some, the difference can add up to several hundred thousand euros during a career.
This is why the ASTI strike is so important. By a margin of 80%, secondary school teachers, the majority of whom are unaffected directly by these cuts, voted to strike in solidarity with their newer colleagues.
The ASTI stance is in stark contrast to the leadership of other unions who have quietly gone along with the Government policy that saw their new members badly discriminated against. Other teacher unions have also accepted recent marginal improvements based on their acceptance of the overall deal. But signs are their members are beginning to revolt and demand they take a similar stand to ASTI.
The ASTI fight is also piling pressure on other non-teaching unions to take a stronger stand. SIPTU officials and the nurses union INMO have also begun talking about the problems with Fempi legislation and the continuation of cuts and productivity that affect their members.
This is why the ASTI strike is so important. The signs are the Government will try to isolate and smash them to keep the pay deals intact. They are trying to recruit parents to scab and keep schools open during the strike and are looking for ways to cajole other teachers unions into doing Asti members work.
They must not succeed. Workers in all unions should support this strike. Invite ASTI members to your branch to discuss the issues and send messages of support to the union. People Before Profit branches will be organising public meetings in support of the teachers’ demands for equal pay and to counter any media and Government attack.
Busworkers accept 11.25% pay rise.
After a series of one and two day strikes bus workers accepted a much improved pay offer that sees them get over 11 % in pay increases between 2016 and 2018. The deal means bus workers’ pay will increase by 7.5% by Jan 1st next year. It is significantly more than the Government or the company offered initially or said they were prepared to pay. The deal came after workers announced a new series of one and two day strikes for October and November that would have meant no buses in the city for over three days per week. Despite the tough talk of ministers it was clear the bus strike and its general support among many workers rattled them and threatened to unravel their general pay plans. The willingness of bus workers to step up the action and pending strikes on the Rail and in Bus Eireann seems to have moved the Government and company position.
However the deal was not universally accepted, with 43% of SIPTU bus drivers rejecting it over concerns at unexplained productivity clauses and the dropping of an outstanding claim for 5% dating back to 2008.
Never the less, despite this understandable frustration of many drivers the outcome must be seen as a victory that will give confidence to other groups and show that striking and a willingness to fight can get results.