Between 1,200 and 1,500 students took part in a protest on Wednesday February 22nd against cuts in allowances for new teachers. The Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairi Quinn, recently announced that allowances for new teachers would be suspended pending a review, which was expected to last up to one month.
One of the organisers of the protest, William O’Brien stated that “The cuts that are being made now are going to lead to the segregation of the teaching profession – you’re going to have a teaching profession with teachers on four different types of salary scales and in the long run for both teachers, students and parents, this is in no one’s interest. The other aspect is that it’s a simple issue of fairness – to be asking teachers to do the exact same work for a significantly lesser amount of money, or less of a salary, is simply not fair – that’s our main point.”
O’Brien further explained that secondary school teachers find it difficult to find full-time employment when they graduate, commenting that approximately ninety per cent of teachers graduating next year will not find full-time work, and will only find part-time “if they are lucky … when you’re talking about the starting salary for a teacher, that’s the starting salary of a full-time teacher. It’s definitely not the norm, it’s the rarity.”
O’Brien stated that he contacted both USI and UCD Students’ Union regarding the protest but that he received no reply, “USI didn’t acknowledge what was going on whatsoever despite the fact that they were informed of what was going on and a phone call was made to myself as the protest was marching down O’Connell Street from USI saying they support us – I think that’s a little too late.”
USI Deputy President Colm Murphy explained that he only heard about the protest on Monday evening, “It came up across my radar vary late but it certainly is something I would have supported. I wish it had come to us earlier as we could have done more to assist, but fair play to the students for getting out there and organising it.”
UCD Students’ Union Campaigns and Communications Officer Brendan Lacey insisted that he had not heard about the protest until contact was made by USI, “I received no communications from William, unless he contacted the front desk and the message wasn’t passed on – I certainly never got the message.” He stated that the Campaigns Officer of USI informed him on the day of the march that it was taking place “but by that point, there wasn’t much I could do to rally a campaign in terms of hours.”
O’Brien re-affirmed the importance of the Minister’s decision, which is expected within a week, “allowances make up a significant proportion of a teacher’s salary, to suspend them without consultation with the Union, which is a normal practice, means that new teachers are just being utterly and unfairly targeted by the government – they’re an easy target because they’re a very small minority of the teaching profession. The protest was saying that enough is enough, new teachers have taken a significant pay cut already going back to the start of last year and the recent announcement was just a step too far.”