Listening to Morning Ireland on regime radio on the 7th of November we were surprised to hear the word lock out used only in the context of pupils being locked out of schools. The term has been carefully avoided when it comes to the teachers locked out by their employers.]
Thousands of teachers are locked out of their place of work that morning despite turning up as normal. The ASTI twitter account has sent many photos of teachers standing outside closed schools around the country, some 60% of secondary schools are closed.
But the teachers are not striking, they turned up for work. All that has happened is that they withdrew from supervision duties. Their employer has retaliated by closing down the schools and RTE has been unquestionably repeating the PR line that this is on ‘health and safety’ grounds. It’s the withdrawal of pay designed to force teachers to work an extra unpaid hour.
At the core of the dispute is the governments ongoing program of forcing public sector workers to work additional unpaid hours. At this point almost every public sector worker is working the equivalent of 3-4 unpaid weeks a year due to increases in the length of the working week and decreases in holidays. And depending on age most will know also have to work 3 more years before retirement, retirement age having been raised from 65 to 68.
Apart from making additional workers work longer hours the main impact this has on society as a whole is to increase unemployment. If you force 10 teachers to work an extra 4 hours (unpaid) each a week then that’s an 11th teacher who is not going to get a job. Thousands of workers not retiring at 65 is thousands of college leavers not filling jobs that would have been opened by such retirements. And because the public sector is almost the last strongly unionised sector in the country anything forced on public sector workers lowers the minimum that unorganised private sector workers have to accept.
It’s all part of the ongoing pattern that has seen the richest sliver of Irish society become very much richer over the last 20 years when conditions for the rest of us stagnated and then worsened with the crisis. There has been a huge wealth grab in which almost all of us have lost out and part of that wealth gap is forcing some of us to work extra unpaid hours and there forcing others of us to remain unemployed.
It’s quite telling that the one sector the government caved in on was the Garda. As anyone who was involved in water charge protests or the earlier protests at Rossport already knows there is a reason they want to keep the Garda onside. If the rest of us get organised and stand together the thin blue line is all that stands between us and the richest 1% off speculators and landlords living off our labour.
WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter