Secondary school teachers and third-level lecturers at Ireland’s Institutes of Technology have recently declared they will go on a one-day strike on February 3rd ahead of the general election.
The decision was announced by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) on January 12th as a result of on-going cutbacks, casualisation, underfunding of the third level sector and cuts to student support services.
The TUI represents over 4,000 lecturers and 10,000 secondary school teachers across Ireland, 89 per cent of which supported industrial action as revealed in a recent survey by the organisation.
Within secondary schools, concerns about casualisation of teachers contracts has meant a significant reduction in the number of full-time contracts being offered. Over 50 per cent of second-level teachers under the age of 35 are living on part-time or temporary contracts. TUI President Gerry Quinn said that this is resulting in students being taught “by a succession of teachers in a given subject area over the course of the Junior or Leaving Certificate cycles.”
He went on to describe the huge increase in the teachers’ workload in the last few years, while students are being affected by the quality of the teaching across the board. “Graduates who had intended to undertake a Master’s in teaching and, increasingly, qualified teachers across a range of subjects are routinely finding better paid and more secure employment in industry.”
This announcement was made just one day after TUI also announced that 4,000 lecturers at Institutes of Technology will strike on the same day as a result of an increase in student intake combined with a fall in academic staff numbers. In a statement on January 12th, Quinn revealed that there has been a 32 per cent increase in student numbers since 2008, while simultaneously there has been a 9.2 per cent decrease in full-time lecturers. Similar to the situation in secondary schools, this has led to an “unacceptable workload imposition” on lecturers, along with restrictions to student services and over-crowding in lectures and labs.
This comes at a time when the Technological Universities Bill is due to be enacted by the Government ahead of the general election. The Bill, which calls for the dissolution of the Institutes of Technology, Blanchardstown and Tallaght, and for the merging of their resources into Dublin Institute of Technology, has come under scrutiny due to its failure to address the current issues.
In the same statement announcing the lecturers’ strikes, Quinn warned of the danger of implementing “such huge change without full commitment to proper resourcing in an era of hugely damaging cutbacks to the sector”. He called on the Minister for Education, Jan O’Sulllivan, to open discussion about this with TUI.