The chairperson of IMPACT’ 10,000-strong Education Division today (Wednesday) called on education workers to accept proposals for a new Croke Park deal. Speaking at the inaugural conference of the new Division in Kilkenny this evening (Wednesday), Gina O’Brien said valuable protections for the most vulnerable workers would be lost if the deal was rejected.
“It annoys me that some of those opposed to the deal – generally people who are far higher paid and better protected than special needs assistants, school secretaries, and young workers struggling with mortgages and childcare costs – call on our members to vote against the vital protections in this agreement.
“It’s particularly galling when they say there will be pay cuts for administrative staff. There will be no cuts to core pay for staff who earn less than €65,000 a year. It is dishonest and irresponsible to sow fear and confusion among ordinary workers – especially lower-paid staff with big housing and childcare costs, who have no access to overtime or premium payments to make up the difference if the deal is rejected and the Government imposes another pay cut,” she said.
In a separate development, The chairs of four IMPACT branches that collectively represent over 6,000 special needs assistants have also called for a ‘yes’ vote. If accepted, the agreement will lead to the implementation of a 2012 Labour Court recommendation that will give SNAs far greater job security by establishing a redeployment panel for SNAs.
IMPACT’s Education Division is the biggest representative voice for non-teaching staff in the sector. It represents special needs assistants, school secretaries, clerical and administrative staff in VECs and institutes of technology, and staff of the National Education Welfare Board and school completion programmes.
Ms O’Brien said that, while new Croke Park proposals were tough, the union had to be honest with its members about what the deal means for them. “There is no doubt that this is a very hard choice for our members. The proposals mean a third pay cut for some, and changes in working conditions for all.
“But we are not choosing between this package and the status quo – we are choosing between this and something far less certain, and almost certainly worse. If the deal is rejected, we risk losing its protections when managers come looking for redeployment, changes in working hours and flexitime, and other changes to working conditions. Compulsory redundancies and pay cuts for all – including the low paid – will be firmly back on the agenda.
“The Government will save its billion, unions will lose their influence, and the people we represent will lose the protections they desperately need in these hard and uncertain times.
Only sustained industrial action could change that. So ask yourselves, are our members – low to middle earners struggling to make ends meet – realistically ready for that? I am proud to say I am a member of the IMPACT Central Executive Committee, which overwhelmingly recommended acceptance of the proposals,” she said.
Ms O’Brien said IMPACT’s Education Division had been established to give voice to the views and concerns of non-teaching staff in the sector. “Our education system has earned an international reputation for quality and excellence. We’re proud to play a vital role in delivering the highest standards of quality, and we are determined to work and campaign to ensure that every child, teenager and adult in this State has a right to quality education and training regardless of their income, wealth, ability or disability. We want to contribute. We expect to be consulted and listened to. We demand representation on relevant bodies and steering groups at local and national level,” she said.
Note to editors
IMPACT’s Education Division is holding its conference in the Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny from Wednesday 3rd April to Friday 5th April inclusive. Full media facilities are in place.