The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) was mandated to lobby the Government for the renegotiation of the Croke Park Agreement during National Council held last week.
The motion was proposed by UCD Students’ Union President Pat de Brún, who felt there would be huge benefits should the Agreement be renegotiated, “This is something that I personally feel very strongly about and something which I’ve spoken about before in public, but I just felt that it was the appropriate time to propose it and make it a national policy at congress.”
De Brún cited UCD’s budget and the cuts to student services that have occurred over the past few years as one of the main reasons he proposed the motion, stating “the fact that eighty per cent of the UCD budget is caught up in pay costs means that for the last five years, budget cuts have gone directly into student services and it’s having a huge negative effect on the quality of student supports and services.”
He believed that the USI lobbying the Government for this renegotiation to take place was an effective strategy, “I think that we’ll be listened to because at the end of the day we’re the biggest stakeholders in higher education and you can’t really ignore the voice of the entire student body when the staff only makes up a small proportion of the entire population … I think we’re not the only sector in society who think that it’s about time it was renegotiated. A lot of people do agree and think that the Government needs to face up to the trade unions.”
He continued to say that “I think first of all that the recruitment tree in the sector is absolutely strangling any kind of progress that we might be able to make, and secondly the fact that the there was no room for any reduction in pay for the entire sector, it’s mad. The quality of teaching and the class sizes are changing for the worse all the time but our staff are completely protected. You don’t see it; it’s completely incomparable to the private sector.
“In the good times when benchmarking was introduced, the public sector got pay increases in line with the private sector year on year, but we’re not seeing the same thing happening when in comes to reductions in the private sector and once again we see the public service being blanketed. I just don’t think its sustainable, I don’t think it can last any longer.”
USI President Gary Redmond was specifically mandated to address the motion. De Brún believes the issue is an important one that needs to be prioritised at the next Government lobby, stating “there’s another lobby coming up in a month or two and it’s going to be a prominent part of that. I think it’s hugely important. If we do succeed in having it renegotiated, it would have a hugely positive impact on the sector so I do think its something that needs to be prioritised.”