Punishing trade union members for being union members….

tolpuddA week is a long time in politics. A century is therefore much much longer. One of the great traditions of the many strands of the left was that the right to organize and to engage in collective action should be respected, both for individuals and groups. People have , literally, died for this right, three of them in the 1913 Lockout in Dublin.  There are parts of the world where union membership is a dangerous , costly business.

Ireland’s finances are in a mess. The decision of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland to reject, in a democratic open vote, the Haddington Road Agreement will not make a jot of difference to this. The total savings of the agreement are calculated at €300m, which is a lot to thee and me but not a lot in the context of say the €100b we have poured into the banking mess.

Big-Jim-LarkinWe now have the strange situation where the Labour Party, the direct lineal descendent of the organizers of the 1913 lockout, are going to proceed to implement a policy whereby ASTI members will be financially penalized MERELY for being members of that union. Two teachers, doing exactly the same work, will now be treated differently by their employer just because they are members of different unions.  ASTI members will be locked out of any existing contractual incremental raises which non-ASTI members will be eligible to get ; Non-ASTI members will eventually get any pay cuts imposed restored, ASTI members will not ; There are other issues which amount to discrimination simply on the grounds of union membership. We don’t allow discrimination, overt calculated legally binding discrimination, on the grounds of race. Why on this?

Two questions emerge : First, what is the constitutional position of this discrimination? Second, how happy (as opposed to acquiescent) are members of the labour party with this?

swing_riots_lgI guess things have moved on. In 1913 James Nolan, Michael Byrne and  John Byrne died at the hands of officials on account of their membership of the ITGWU. Now they would just be fiscally punished. Conflating Pat King with Captain Swing may be rhythmical but its not logical. Punishing people for expressing their democratic views is unfair. From the political perspective this is the equivalent of the murder of the Duc D’Enghein – worse than a crime, it is a blunder. And its chilling – what is the next step? To impose extra taxation on people who reside in particular constituencies because they vote against the government? To cut the wages of those who are members of non-government political parties? Or those who are non-members? Fining people for not cheering when government ministers sweep by? Penalising union members just for being union members is rolling back 150 years of social democracy. That it is a so-disant social democratic party doing so shows how utterly corrupting is power.


18 thoughts on “Punishing trade union members for being union members….

  1. B J Richards

    The Haddington Road Agreement guaranteed NO COMPULSORY REDUNDANCIES. Unions were told BEFORE the vote that if it were rejected there would be no guarantees on jobs. The ASTI voted not to accept it. So do not muddy the wasters Brian by pretending that this is some cold blooded decision by Quinn. We have elements in the media just stirring this for all its worth. It seems you are at it as well. I am NO SUPPORTER of Quinn. We could do with a lot less of this populist nonsense Brian. Quinn made a simple statement of fact. If I felt he were bullying teachers I would of course condemn him.

    If the ASTI accepts the Agreement no jobs are under threat. At least be fair. Other unions had to swallow with great difficulty. What about their members? The reality is that the ASTI is now isolated by its decision to reject the deal. It was within its rights to vote NO. But it was tactically an unwise decision. It isolated itself. Damn well you know your country is in grave financial difficulty. Incidentally Third Level teachers voted to accept the deal. So did the INTO and TUI. If this Agreement is unpicked by any union it will collapse like a pack of cards. Is that what you want? This is 2013 Brian not 1913. The country is in grave financial peril. What concessions would you give to the ASTI that would not unpick this deal?

    1. brianmlucey Post author

      none of which I necessarily disagree with, but I am still deeply uncomfortable with penalising people simply on the grounds of membership of trade union A. Deeply
      If we roll back too far we will be in 1913 again.

    2. brianmlucey Post author

      BTW – im not stirring it. And im sorry if you think it populist nonsense. I could do that if you wanted and you would see a difference.
      If we punish people for being in one union vs another, and no other criteria, where exactly does that stop? Please tell me? Expedience is no excuse

      1. irishelectionliterature

        Good piece.
        There are plenty of ASTI members who voted for Haddington Road.
        There are also plenty of especially younger teachers who don’t belong to either the TUI or ASTI. They will be penalised also.
        From my own knowledge it was the arseology of the extra 33 hours that pushed many teachers to vote against the agreement. Not a second of those 33 hours is spent teaching. Much of it is taken up with pointless meetings after hours to just use up time.

    3. Des Derwin

      “The Haddington Road Agreement guaranteed NO COMPULSORY REDUNDANCIES.” The Croke Park Agreement guaranteed no compulsory redundancies. It has an expiry date of, what is it, June 2014. The ASTI, and all unions, accepted that. The government tore it up and is now threatening compulsory redundancies despite Croke Park and even the ASTI’s adherence to it.

      “Damn well you know your country is in grave financial difficulty.” Wrong too. The economic and financial system you subscribe to – your country not ours – was wrecked by banks, speculators and complementary politicians and regulators and the cost – €64 billion, or is it €100 billion – is being transferred to the ordinary population, to working people, public service workers – including ASTI members.

      If the resultant situation is indeed “grave financial peril” this calls for grave measures such as a third and very high taxation rate on high incomes.

  2. B J Richards

    The ASTI members chose this route when they voted NO. It was a crazy decision to isolate themselves. I am no apologist for Quinn. I strongly disagree with the decision to dump the Junior Cert and with his secularist views.
    The other teachers unions were shrewd. You have to know when to retreat gracefully and when to fight. I am aware that teachers who I strongly admire as a profession are being asked to swallow a bitter pill. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

    1. Ed

      “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

      Or as Dr Johnson put it, ‘patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel [not to mention the person who can’t come up with a single good argument to support government policy]’.

  3. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Punishing trade union members for being union members …

  4. justinsinnott

    I think what you will now see ASTI losing members who will sign up to Haddington Road as individuals. You do raise interesting and complex issues. Similarly when Benchmarking and pay rises were been agreed under national wage agreements non-union members benefited.

    I personally think the ASTI leadership have gotten this completely wrong. The Government cannot roll back on the deal as the TUI and IFUT will be the first to demand equality.

  5. Brendan

    I agree with irishelectionliterature above. Whoever conceived of the 33 hours got it badly wrong. Personally I would be happy to give up an extra hour a week to help a student with learning difficulties with his or her literacy etc. (something that many teachers already do btw) However I am disillusioned with the way the 33 hours is unstructured, haphazard and totally unproductive. It is merely adding on hours for the sake of it!

  6. Pingback: “Punishing Trade Union Members for Being Union Members” | The Cedar Lounge Revolution

  7. richotto

    Theres a lot of cheap talk around parallels with 1913 that only devalues the lessons of sticking up for the real working class underdogs in society. Secondary teachers who are on 65k about twice average pay at the top of the scale and vastly more holidays than even their peers in other countries are not deserving of being mentioned in the same context of starving poverty stricken workers at the bottom. They live in the best areas. I would class them as part of the insider professional class who over the years have devoted themselves only to their narrow sectional interest. I would also have a problem as a socialist of a teacher like a doctor for example belonging to a recognizably higher social category than those who are recieving their service. If we believe in more equality why does that not extend to professionals being paid at a level closer to the population they are supposedly serving as they tend to be in other countries in northern Europe? In any case I understand the income from allowances is going to be restored fully to what it was before Haddington Road by 2018.

    1. brianmlucey Post author

      Couple of comments here Richotto
      a) Look at the data on hours worked.
      b) How do you know they live in the ;best; areas? you mean you know some teachers who live in nicer houses than yours? I suspect few teachers other than those married to the financial or barristering classes live in Foxrock, hill of howth etc.
      c) Look at the relative european data in terms of comparative pay rates for teachers vs other similarily qualified.

  8. Padraig Loughlin

    Yes Brian very well said. I totally agree you. in my opinion we are quickly developing “secret government”. Take as an example our Taoiseach refuses to debate the referendum.

  9. CMK

    Any serious discussion of Haddington Road must reference the context within which the vote on that agreement took place. Namely, the threats contained in the FEMPI legislation. Not one single ‘Yes’ vote by any of the unions who balloted members can be fairly described as ‘free’. Union members who voted in favour did so under duress. The first vote on the Croke Park 2 agreement was by far the truer reflection of members’ views. In essence there is no longer free trade unionism in the Irish public sector, as a Minister can change your pay and conditions by edict. FEMPI, and Labour’s support for it, show how far that party have come from its origins.

  10. Paul Robinson

    I raised Brian’s exact point “To impose extra taxation on people who reside in particular constituencies because they vote against the government?” with my local Labour TD. I put it in the context of a government of the day explicitely putting it into their manifesto before the “free election”, as per the FEMPI legislation, and asked him if he thought that might be called undemocratic. He sent me back a load of handwringing blather about the economy and did not address the point at all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s