The Minister for Education Can’t Figure Out This Sum – Can You? 30


Let me start off by ‘making myself popular’ as my wife would say!

I like Richard Bruton. I know I shouldn’t. I’m not a natural Fine Gael supporter eventhough I voted for Francis Fitzgerald in the last election. But I do like Richard. I think he is a consumate professional politician. He’s the kind of politician Fianna Fail would give their right arm to have more of. I think he does the whole politician-job thing quite well. To be sure, he shouldn’t have been let within an ass’s roar of Education, but then, no politician should, unless they had some sort of direct education-profession experience. But Richard is keen to make a difference in Education and I like people who like to make a difference.

Unfortunately, like most Ministers, he is at the mercy of his Department.

Officials feed their Ministers lines about stuff – sometimes the lines have a bearing on reality, but I have some experience where the lines are just plain nonsense. I don’t know whether the officials believe their lines to be true (or if they even know or care whether or not the lines are true) or whether they are secretly having a laugh at their Minister. I suspect it’s the former, but I’m fairly confident the latter also occurs.tumblr_loas5it3ty1qzynlco1_500

Unfortunately, Ministers are stuck. They have to work with their officials and so they have to work with the lines their officials give them. Even if the lines are about fluffy unicorns doing jigs and reels at the crossroads.

The Minister for Education seems to have spent most of his day reciting ad nauseum lines which I figure his officials gave him.

Surely he can’t have thought that what he was saying was anything but utter nonsense.

Surely, he must have been on the radio or talking to journalists all the while thinking ‘the things I have to do to please Enda and Michael. If only I was Taoiseach’.

What’s even more amazing is that journalism has sunk to such a low in Ireland that journalists can’t be bothered to check whether the Minister’s if-onlysums add up. Hence headlines like this from what used to be the ‘paper of record’.

You see, the Minister’s numeracy skills appeared to be lacking judging by the lines he recited from his officials. He couldn’t do this simple Project Maths exercise, one that would have embarrased a reformed junior cycle student, never mind the better sort.

What is the difference between 43 and 33?

33 is the number of FREE Croke Park Hours teachers agreed to do in the interests of the country. We agree to do them under the Haddington Road Agreement. We did them right up to the end of that agreement. And when that agreement was fulfilled and over, we stopped doing them.

The Minsiter was making a big deal about this today saying, ‘if teachers just worked the extra 1 hour a week like everyone else, there is a substantial offer on the table for them’.

Well, no, there isn’t.

Firstly, the dispute is not over the 33 Croke Park Hours (the 1-hour a week). Ok Carl?

And the so-called ‘offer on the table’ is the Lansdowne Road Agreement which we do not want and which everyone now agrees is a Dead Man Walking.

We stopped doing the Croke Park Hours in September. No one missed them. Stopping these hours has had ZERO effect on schools. Schools were still operating without them. Think about this. That’s 17,500 hours every week which were yeilding NOTHING for schools except taking away from extra-curricular sports (Ahem, GAA!) and other student-centred activities. If I was a parent of a child in second level I would have been livid that I had to leave work early to collect my kids because their teacher could no longer take them for sports after school.

The Minsiter didn’t even notice the hours were gone and only decided to make a point of it today because a. his officials fed him that line, b. he knows the government is in the wrong and is now desparately trying to save i. face and ii. the government or c. all of the above.

Today’s dispute is over the 43 Substitution and Supervision Hours

43 is the number of hours Substitution and Supervision we agreed to do under the Haddington Road Agreement. We used to be paid for these, but under the HRA, we agreed, in the interests of the country, that we would do these for free for 3 years. We did.

For his part, the Minister promised to pay us a small sum – amounting to €6 every forthnight – in two pieces – one in 2016/2017 and the other small piece in 2017/2018. The Minister broke his promise saying he would not give us this money unless we signed up to the new Lansdowne Road Agreeement. This Virginia, as you know, is the definition of tyranny.

When the Minister decided not to pay us for working S&S, we decided not to work S&S. 

If the Minister had kept to his bargain, his bargain, then all schools would have been opened today.

What lesson do young people take from this? That it is ok to break your promises? That it is ok to ride roughshod over people once you have power over them? That your word means nothing? Come on Minister, seriously.

What is the difference between €6 and €6000?

€6 per fortnight (teachers are paid fortnightly) (at a rate of €1 per hour) is the amount the Minster promised to pay us AFTER doing 3 years of FREE Substitution and Supervision before he broke his promise.

€6000 is the amount of pay rise the Minister will get this year.

What is the difference between today’s lock out and tomorrow’s (8 Nov) strike?

Teachers turned up for school to work today. But they were locked out because some schools could not organise contingency S&S arrangements. The Minister thinks the ASTI should be the nice guy and help the government break the strike by allowing ASTI principals work contingency S&S arrangements. We all know what happens to the nice guy in these situations.

Today’s lock out happened because the government broke its promise to pay us under the agreement we had.

Tomorrow, schools are closed because the government tried to use its power to bully us into an agreement that did NOTHING to fix the issue of pay inequality. Unequal pay is wrong. Pay inequality is an attack on ALL workers – if you think this is just a teachers strike, you are wrong.

The Minister has misjudged the level of anger among teachers. All along – when people were asked to take a hit in the interests of the country, we were first to sign up. We acted as model examples of the kind of citizen that would put Ireland right again after the other kind of ‘citizen’ screwed up the economy. We played nice in the industrial relations playground. And now the government is trying to take advantage of us.

Enough, Minister, is enough.


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30 thoughts on “The Minister for Education Can’t Figure Out This Sum – Can You?

  • Catherine Duffy

    This is the article I have been waiting to see. Perfect. How can we help get this to all biased media outlets asap?

  • Mary o donoghue

    Very well explained. Pity the public don’t realise what’s going on! People only see June, July and August!

  • S Green

    very informative article indeed – I have no vested interest in the matter but am curious why teachers have not resorted to the Courts if as you say teacher’s employment contracts have been broken by their employers?

    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Sylvia, I understand there is a case in preparation but these can take time to appear. In the meantime, events move quickly. Peter

      • S Green

        Peter, thank you for your reply which is noted but tbh when so much is at stake for teachers (salaries) and indeed their students (learning), I’d have thought application for injunctory relief should be made today- I can only assume that if the Dept’s legal advice was that they had sufficient grounds to do so, they’d be in the High Court at a minutes notice- why the teachers Union is not doing so is a question I’m wondering about….

  • Ann O'Reilly

    Thank you Peter for these very clear articles. We are sharing them on Facebook and maybe they will help get the truth out there.

  • Stephen Mann

    Why can you not be the person explaining this on the radio instead of the handful of passionate but easily confused teachers that seem to be fighting our case. We’re gettin he hammered in the media and even our own union can’t seem to be able to put it a shame simply as you do. Try get some prime time air time. Another great article.

    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Stephen, Feel free to circulate this to whomever. And they can pass it on again etc. Many thanks for your kind comment, and indeed, all those below. Peter

  • Dani D

    At Last …. An accurate depiction of the real situation This concise, easy to read & well written piece would in my opinion significantly reduce any confusion the public have over why ASTI members are striking – I hope it reaches the masses

  • Brian

    Pay equality??? Are you kidding me.
    Teachers that signed up after 2011 knew what they were signing up for.
    Teachers that qualified before 2011 are obviously more experienced and hence deserve better pay.
    I work along side people who are paid both better and worse than me. It is the contract we each signed and negotiated.
    Generally the people on more than me are more experienced and the people on less than me are less experienced.
    €31000 a year is a fantastic starting salary in any profession. While it is paid as an annual salary it essentially for 8 months work.
    And to get that salary with 4 months off where if you so wish you can top it up by taking a temporary job in the private sector then by all means go ahead.
    You can also mark jc and lc papers and get paid extra for it.
    With regard to the €6 s&s payment, I would happily pay an extra €2 per month in my taxes to subsidise this to ensure that my children (2 doing jc) are properly cared for while in school.
    If the state are to end over to every union that goes on strike this year we will be in a worse position than we were from 2008 to 2013.
    They need to be cautious with the money they have.
    Also, the minister will not be getting a bonus of €6000 this year. That money was turned down or is your memory that short. But to be clear the increase mentioned in the budget was €5k not €6k.
    Get back to the classes, teach and supervise and substitute, if the government signed a contract offering an extra €6 every 2 weeks then don’t strike, just lobby your shop steward to take the government too court. If it was just a promise then I don’t know why ye are taking this a reaction all.
    The union is obviously not as good as they thought they were, they are pissed off and are taking their failings out on the children of Ireland.
    To summarise, I have no sympathy for the post 2011 teacher, I do however have a little bit of sympathy for €6 every 2 weeks argument.

    • peterlydon Post author

      Brian, Thanks for your comment. Eventhough it is contrary to the prevailing view, I think it is important to publish it. It think it is also important to reply to it. I’m not going to ask you to change your mind but I think I might bring some extra clarity to the situation.
      More experienced teachers do get better pay and no one has any issue with this. The issue is the change in the first point on the pay scale at which teachers start. There are no 3 different startng points; this is clearly inequitable.
      Secondly, teacher’s can’t negotiate their contracts. We can go into the boss and ask for a pay rise. In fact, there is no contract – but this is a good thing because it means no teacher can turn around and say ‘that’s not in my contract’ – this ensures a lot of flexibility that people don’t generally hear about.
      €31000 is an absolutely fantastic salary. You are right. But virtually no teacher starts on this salary. It part it is because schools only offer less than full time hours to newly qualified teachers. It can take a minimum of 4 years before this salary becomes a prospect. It took me 10 years.
      I get the whole argument about the holidays but most people agree that children should have a childhood that isn’t dominated by school all year round. But nothwithstanding that weak argument, I spend all of my mid-term breaks correcting, planning and doing *unrecognised* CPD. The summer is long, but I think this is a fair exchange for not have travel expenses to work, expensed cars, Christmas bonuses, flexi-time, overtime etc.
      No one mark JC and LC papers for the money. It is 4 weeks on onersous work from with the government takes 55% of what is paid. I think the average net income for this 4 weeks work is €700 (but I would need to double check this). Hardly lucractive – which explains why the SEC finds it increasingly difficult to get people to do it.
      I would not ask you to pay more taxes for S&S. And the ASTI never asked this. We knew exactly what the deal was – Do S&S free for 3 years, and at the end, we’ll give you small payment in two lump sums (it works out at about €1 per hour after tax on average). That was the deal we accepted. All we are asking the government to do is honour that agreement first, tehn let’s talk about a new agreement. To be fair, there are major trust issues on both sides, but the sensible thing to do is build trust rather than agravate the situation.
      Together with allowances, I understand that some Oreachtas members are getting *more* than €6000 (but €5000 is not bad either). It was left up to individual Oireachtas members to decide whether they would turn down the payment. Most have not.
      I understand there is a case in preparation, but the union cannot issue a write until a locus standi (or cause) has arisen.
      Ask your kids about keeping promises. But that is still not the point. The point was holding us to ransom to force us into another agreement instead of honouring the original agreement. This is just plain objectionable.
      The government saw this coming down the line. But they felt emboldened by the economic situation and the agreement with Fianna Fail. Still, tehy decided not to honour their agreement. They had no problem finding €40 million for the Gardai but will not pay us the tiny sum we agreed to.
      Teachers turned up to teach today but were locked out. This needn’t have happened – but just like the change to the LRA they gave the TUI and INTO, teh givernmetn was politicking around with the situation.
      All told however, I think there is a more serious issue, namely the poor interpersonal relationships between the DES and the ASTI. There is blame on both sides. But the effect is to hold back progress on issues that ought not to be issues. A holistic solution is needed but we’re just short of a honest broker at the moment.
      Thank you for taking the time to read the article. Even if you did not agree with it, I respect the fact that you cared enough to consider it. I really just want to do my job. But I think you would agree that I should be paid for it.

    • Stephen

      I think the response to this was excellent and I too understand that if you are not in the teaching profession that the holidays is sore point among the private and parts of the public sector.

      I just wanted to pick up on the point that was mentioned about the teachers post 2011 knew what they were getting in to with regards to the pay scale changes…Sorry but I started my teaching degree in 2007, a 4 year combined science and teaching degree, I graduated at the end of 2011. So I don’t think it’s fair to say we all knew what we were getting in to…that also being said I did know when I applied on my CAO that there were good holidays in teaching, the way this is thrown back in teachers faces is as if a few years ago we were given more summer holidays, we all had a career choice, you obviously felt you didn’t want these holidays or that you preferred a different career option.

      Finally 31,000 is a great starting salary if you get it even thoughh its less than others doing the same work, but it has been mentioned I don’t know any teacher starting out that had full hours. A teaching contract is very complicated there are numerous types, some newly qualified teachers are actually given school hours and some department hours which means they don’t get paid during any holidays and the rest is paid by the department. But that is a separate issue we are talking about department hours.

      I go in at 8am and leave at 5.30 after extra curricular activities or clubs and take home marking etc (yes I know others do this in private sector jobs, but it’s to point out we also do stuff after hours as this can get lost) and I take home 336.38 euro a week after tax for that (maybe that seems good to you, I don’t know, but having got a degree and worked really hard to get to this point I’m earning significantly less than teachers who started a year earlier than me) sorry but It is extremely difficult to get a job that has full hours. I may not be very articulate in stressing my point and I hope I don’t come across as rude I’m just extremely frustrated by the lack of details and proper conversation about what’s happening.

  • Mairead D'Arcy

    Thank you for telling us exactly what this is about. Minister Bruton is no fool. He knows exactly what it is about but his spin doctors are not doing their jobs well. Maybe they are not being paid enough. It is about time that this government should honour their word, thatbis if they or their officials have a word.

  • Mary

    Excellently put. Perhaps this should appear in all the daily papers because the public do not seem to understand what the hell is going on. Minister it’s not one hour per week check ur maths again.

  • Michael Jenkinson

    I think it’s beyond disgusting and insulting how teachers and other public sectors are treated in this country and TT’s give themelves an unjust payrise of 5k….. this is a Government that the Irish people don’t even want!!!!!

  • James O'Donovan

    Peter,
    You are so correct in what you have said.
    What has happened here is so reflective of what the DES is – a dinosaur! Very inefficient, nobody taking the reins and nobody with a bit of vision of where education needs to be in , say 20-30 years time. There is a malaise in the DES where they make it up as they go along, and because they never addressed the ASTI issues until recently the latter has been brought to breaking point.
    Notwithstanding the fact that the DES has the power, money and media feeding their agenda it and the Minister has acted immorally, unethically and shown themselves to be ‘cheap’ negotiators on behalf of the State.

  • C McNerney

    Hear hear! Clear, succinct, factual! Just what we need to get the truth across. Thank you very much. If people only see June, July and August it’s a great shame and it’s dangerous. The public needs to know that burn out on teaching is on the rise and would be worse without those breaks. Pupils wouldn’t survive either.

  • Ambrose McCreanor

    Brilliantly explained and a necessary truth to the unfair spin that the government is putting out there.

  • Aisling Hamilton

    Excellent article Peter well done, so well explained, should be sent everywhere for the media to read, also Brian dobson in Rte should read this too.

  • Paddy Monaghan

    Do away with the Trade Union movement that’s the government’s(F G. lidos and. F F) plan as far as I’m concerned Paddy Monaghan

  • Cian Hogan

    Fantastic work Peter! The ASTI needs this kind of simple straightforward factual evidence in response to the deliberate obfuscation and equivocation. As you rightly point out, the Irish Times has been particularly lazy in its coverage. Thanks again for all the effort you put into this.