INTO members defy union leadership to reject work-for-free plan

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800 delegates representing Irish National Teachers Organisation members from across the country have voted overwhelmingly to reject a government scheme which would have seen unemployed teachers working for free in our schools.

At a Conference in Croke Park Dublin today (Saturday), delegates also voted to instruct the union’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) to issue a directive to all union members not to participate in the scheme.  The gulf between the union membership and the leadership was evident when the only delegates voting against the directive were members of the CEC.

This scheme - known as the Fas Work Placement Programme, and sold on the basis that it would give unemployed teachers 'a chance to gain experience' - was originally announced by Minister for Education & Skills, Mary Coughlan, at the end of November.  With the announcement coming just days after the announcement of cuts of 1,200 teaching jobs (see http://www.wsm.ie/c/teacher-work-free-ireland-unemployed) members of the union across the country were furious and expected the union’s leadership to immediately reject the scheme.

In a move which has come today  to show just how out of touch they are with the feeling of members on the ground, the CEC instead entered talks with the Department of Education and Skills on implementation and monitoring of the scheme.

Members of the union were not willing to accept this however.  Spurred on by young members and Newly Qualified Teachers, members organised to resist the scheme.  To ask or expect people to work for nothing was identified clearly as exploitation and an insult to basic trade union principles.

Motions from a number of Dublin branches were tabled for a Special Conference of the union which took place today.  The only opposition to the motions came from the union leadership.  After a lively and robust debate, delegates voted overwhelmingly to reject the scheme and to instruct the CEC to issue a directive to all union members not to participate in it.

With the issuing of this directive, principal teachers will refuse to have anything to do with the scheme so it will be impossible for it to proceed.

This was a massive victory for the ordinary members of the union.  It showed that when union members get together and organise in a co-ordinated and cogent manner that we can prove that the union belongs to the members and not to the leadership.

Members of the INTO will now begin to plan for the union’s Annual Congress to be held at Easter.  The 10 - 15% cut in pay and the changes in pension entitlements of new entrants are expected to dominate the Congress agenda. 

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