Yesterday evening I received a copy of directives from my union (The ASTI) regarding our action following rejection of the Haddington Road Agreement. This was welcome after a week of scaremongering from official sources, and a barrage of negative publicity from others, including many branches of the media.
We have been warned to “think carefully” by the Taoiseach. We have been told by a Labour Minister that there could be “compulsory redundancies“. The ASTI look increasingly isolated in our position after we saw our colleagues in the TUI vote to accept the agreement. Each union has held their democratic votes, and we respect each other’s decision.
So, what actions are planned by the ASTI? The plan is three-fold:
- Don’t attend meetings that take place outside normal school hours
- If an unpaid job becomes available in the school (class tutor, exam secretary, etc) don’t take it on
- Do not take part in any further development on the new Junior Cert Curriculum
Teachers usually love their jobs. We genuinely want our students to do well, to have a good experience of school, and be well prepared for life. The reason that we are at this stage is that teachers see the quality of their work, the quality of education, being eroded due to the starving out of resources.
But industrial action is not easy, and not undertaken lightly. Those of us protesting face a possibility of losing pay, but every so often I hear stories that remind me why I’m if favour of this action.
I could mention how the original Croke Park Agreement was due to last until 2014, or repeat many of the points I made I made in my previous post. Instead allow me to recount how the cuts have affected a friend of mine:
Yesterday she recounted how her son, for the past month, has been coming home from primary school crying because he can’t hear what the teacher says, due to the noise levels in the classroom. Why? Because there are 36 other children in the class. Close your eyes and imagine 37 eight year old children, and imagine the challenge of trying to teach them anything. If you can’t imagine achieving that, then don’t feel bad. I doubt there are many people who can maintain a class of 37 students for a school day, 5 days a week for a full school year.
And what’s it like for me to be facing into industrial action? Yesterday was unsettling. In our school are teachers who are members of the ASTI and of the TUI. I worried that our colleagues in the TUI would somehow disapprove of our actions. Our school’s open night will be on next week, and ASTI members are not supposed to attend. All of this did not sit well with me yesterday, and then I slept on it.
I needn’t have worried. My TUI colleagues have shown nothing but support. I regret that I won’t be at the open night for our school next week, but I think that this is the lesser of two evils.
Teaching has faced enough cuts to resources – lets hope that our action will stop any further cuts.