Third party intervention is only course to avert teachers’ strike – FF

Published on: 28 November 2014

Fianna Fáil is calling on the Government to initiate contact with the Labour Relations Commission with a view to averting next week’s strike action by teachers.

Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue said the deadlock between the Education Minister and unions requires outside intervention.  As many as 350,000 students will be affected by the action if it goes ahead on Tuesday. 

Deputy McConalogue commented, “The current stalemate cannot be allowed to continue.  All efforts must be made to avert the strike on Tuesday, and Minister Jan O’Sullivan should make contact with Kevin Foley at the LRC to establish whether he can engage with the teachers unions.  The only way this process can move forward is if both the Minister and the unions agree to drop their preconditions and participate in meaningful discussions.

“Teachers are understandably concerned about changes to the independent assessment mechanism.  It has been an important component of our examination system for decades and has proved to be an efficient and effective practice.  It is unfair of Minister O’Sullivan to expect teachers to sign up to a school-based assessment model without publishing any of the details of the project or portfolio work.  By the same token, the unions must appreciate the concessions the Minister has made to date. 

“The relationship between the teachers unions and the Department of Education has been tainted by the attitude adopted by former Minister Ruairi Quinn.  His refusal to engage or consult with the ASTI and TUI created a tension that saw relations deteriorate significantly.  Minister O’Sullivan’s revised proposals mark a significant departure from her predecessors’ plan, but the issue of independent assessment remains.

“It is important that we do not enter into a prolonged period of industrial unrest in our schools and I would urge the Minister to employ all of the industrial relations machinery of the State to resolve this current impasse.  These strikes will cause widespread disruption across the school system, and will affect tens of thousands of secondary students, including those preparing for State exams.

“The ultimate goal of this process must be a better curriculum for our students.  We need to ensure that pupils are more engaged in the learning process, rather than concentrating on a wrote system and final exams.  There is a responsibility on teachers and the Minister to achieve this, beginning with an open negotiations process without any preconditions”.

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