But teachers unions reject it.
Support teachers fight for pay equality
pic: Jack O’Connor , President of SIPTU and Chair of the Labour Party
It is no accident that the leader who has done most, this year as in the past, to sell this rotten deal is Jack O’Connor, President of SIPTU and Chair of the Labour Party.
Lower rates for new recruits remain in place, as do much reduced pension rates and higher pension contributions. Up to 15 million unpaid extra hours are effectively made a permanent condition for many public sector workers. In both teaching and the health sector core issues remain unaddressed. Pay inequality and the difficulty of retaining staff because of low pay and poor conditions are not dealt with. The deal will insure that the staffing crisis in our hospitals remains and working conditions will not improve for most workers there.
The three teaching unions however are likely to reject the deal, this is a significant first and holds out the prospect that teachers across all sectors may unite to fight on key issues in the year ahead. Both the TUI and INTO have rejected the deal by large majorities and the TUI have backed strike action to oppose the two tier pay structure in schools. This will be an important fight that all trade unionists should support and it could yet unravel the Government’s plans.
While many workers will be disappointed by the large yes votes in unions like SIPTU and IMPACT, this needs to be seen in context. Many workers have taken large pay cuts over the austerity years and attacks on their conditions. In many union workplaces, organisation is poor with little active rank and file gatherings. This means the only information many workers got on this deal was from their full time officials. The gloss they put on this was that there was no alternative, a strike couldn’t win any more and that if they didn’t vote to accept, there would be no pay rises at all.
On top of this the supposed gains in the deal were talked up and workers where told how much they would gain over the course of the deal. The deal will mean average pay rises of €4-5000 over three years. However, since 2009 many public sector workers have faced average cuts of over €1500 euro per year, or anything from 9 to 19% cuts on basic pay when the pension levy is included. The deal means that many of the “temporary” measures and cuts introduced during the crisis ere now permanent and that pay inequality, unpaid extra hours and lower overtime rates will now be copper fastened.
In workplaces where socialists and other activists had a voice it proved possible to win a majority to reject the deal, unfortunately that wasn’t enough to win an overall majority at this time.
Despite the deal’s acceptance, trade union activists should not be demoralised. Workers confidence will return and there remain many outstanding issues that union leaders have promised will be addressed. If they are not, workers anger may not be easy to contain.
The deal’s acceptance shows yet again the urgency of building a left presence in our unions and reclaiming for the ruinous grip of the Labour Party. More battles lie ahead such as attempts to raise the pension age to 70 and the increase in low pay and precarious work that many face. This means trying to connect with workplaces by leafletting etc. on various issues and building a network of union activists.
If teachers go on strike we should join their picket lines in solidarity and get messages of support for their struggle into as many workplaces as possible to counter media attacks and put the case for full pay equality across the public sector.