ETB staff to take industrial action from Monday

IMPACT members who work in education and training boards (ETBs) will be taking limited industrial action from Monday (16th June) in a dispute over management’s failure to reach agreement on issues arising from the establishment of the new bodies and the transfer of services previously delivered by FÁS and currently managed by SOLAS.

The action follows management’s failure to agree a framework to deal comprehensively with workloads, the filling of vacancies, the consolidation of long-term acting positions, and the intense effort required to absorb SOLAS staff and structures.

Although some proposals for increased staffing and regularisation of acting posts had been put forward by the employers, the union believes they were inadequate. The education department has since withdrawn the proposals.

The action means that IMPACT members in certain ETBs will cease cooperation with the next phase of the transfer of SOLAS functions to the education and training boards. Offices in all ETBs will be closed to the public – and phones won’t be answered – between 1pm and 2pm each day. Staff will cease cooperation with building works for non-ETB schools and the transfer of high-support units to ETBs. They will also refuse to take work home, as well as engaging in various other forms of non-cooperation.

The staff concerned have already cooperated with huge changes arising from the merger of 33 vocational education committees into just 16 ETBS, which were formally established last July. Around 700 former FÁS staff started to transfer to the ETBs in January. The second phase of their transfer was planned for next month.

IMPACT’s NETB branch has expressed disappointment at the long delay in finalising an agreement similar to that reached with other unions and says time is running out as the second phase of the transfer of SOLAS functions approaches.

IMPACT official Pat Bolger said staff had waited too long for assurances that they would be protected as they enhance the service and make it even more effective and cost-efficient. “This is about protecting the dignity as well as the interests of staff who have already delivered massive change and efficiency. As always, the union remains available to negotiate, but we now need management to move on these important issues,” he said.