MEMBERS of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) have voted in favour of accepting a wage increase of six per cent, over a 21 month period, as part of the proposed national pay agreement. This is in line with the recommendations of the IFUT’s executive, which had recommended a ‘Yes’ vote.
The deal will see pay levels freeze for public sector employees for eleven months while those in the private sector will have no pay increase for three months. Previously, IFUT General Secretary, Mike Jennings had described this deal as a “pretty bitter pill for us to swallow”, but explained that the federation accepted the deal “with reluctance”.
Criticising Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe as “very glib in relation to his justification of cuts”, Mr Jennings explained that IFUT accepted the pay deal in order to continue a “spirit of partnership’ in the tougher economic times. “[Mr O’Keeffe] says that it is a temporary measure and that we should, in a spirit of partnership, agree to allow these temporary measures to take place… until the economy improves.”
However, Mr Jennings stated that this agreement is not an acceptance of budget cuts in the third-level education. He added that “there are a number demonstrations being planned by our sister unions, the Teacher’s Union of Ireland, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Association of Secondry Teachers Ireland (ASTI), and all four unions will be supporting a major national demonstration on 6th December in Dublin.”
Mr Jennings added that the president and the general secretaries of the four unions will all meet on the 26th November where they will “plan out a strategy to win maximum public support, make people understand just what exactly is involved in the cutbacks and how damaging they will be for higher education.”
When asked what impact he felt the budget cuts were having on universities, he spoke of the damaging effect that the current embargo on recruitment was having on third-level institutions; “as staff retire… and people get promoted and move to other institutions and or go abroad, so increasingly over the next few months students are going to notice that there much fewer lecturers.”
A further consequence of the embargo, which concerned Mr Jennings, was that universities would be considering a “reduction of subject choice… [something] students would find dispiriting to say the least.” Mr Jennings felt that the policy was unfair to current students, stating “if the quality of educations slips… that is something you rob from them. They’ll never get that back.”
The IFUT met with the rest of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions yesterday to determine the overall stance on the pay deal but the result was unknown at the time of print.