Do you think the INTO is as influential as it always has been?

We asked both candidates for the INTO President position some questions to see where they stood on issues that affect education. At Anseo.net, we suspect the INTO’s influence has waned somewhat over the years. What do our two candidates think?

[Due to time constraints with attempting to manage the comments, I’ve decided to switch off the comments on the blog as it takes ages to do. I appreciate the time people have taken to add their support to their preferred candidate but I simply can’t manage it and juggle the other bits of my evenings.]

Gregor Kerr

A union’s strength is built on the extent to which it can both put forward cogent arguments and use members’ co-operation (and the threat of non co-operation) as a bargaining tool. I think in recent times we have been reluctant to use the latter of these, and therefore our ability to benefit from the former has waned.

Thus we have become one of the most biddable unions in terms of pay agreements – the INTO is always first out of the blocks to vote on a deal and almost always with a Yes recommendation and a very heavy sell from the leadership. We have therefore been ‘influential’ in that our Yes vote often paves the way for other unions’ votes. But that ‘influence’ hasn’t worked to the benefit of members. It led to pay inequality, to pay cuts and to our accepting a host of unpaid extra workload and new initiatives.

The members of the INTO have always been respected for having an integrity which comes from our commitment to equality and justice. But in the last number of years we have tended to ‘roll over’ and accept cuts. We have tended to see how we can facilitate new initiatives rather than oppose them. I believe that this needs to change.

John Boyle

I certainly do. It is my view that INTO had a massive influence on the protective strategy pursued by the trade union movement during Ireland’s ‘lost decade’.While acknowledging that much was lost during the economic collapse, I firmly believe that the work our union did since 2008 has ensured that we are now very well placed to recover a huge amount in the next couple of years. We have already recovered a significant amount since 2013. I have no doubt that with a cohesive leadership team and a united membership, we will quickly recover even more from 2017 onwards.

My top priority since my teenage years has been the retention of our brightest and best young people on the island of Ireland. I am very proud of the various INTO staffing campaigns I have been closely involved with while on the CEC. Despite the country’s loss of economic sovereignty, INTO has succeeded in delivering nearly 6000 extra teaching posts during the recession. This was no mean feat. Most public service unions marvelled at our success. I am thrilled that so many newly qualified teachers have gained permanent teaching posts since 2010. As a result of our acceptance of the Landsdowne Road Agreement many NQTs now secure contracts of indefinite duration on the first day of their third year teaching. Two successive governments targeted new entrants for severe cuts. INTO has successfully negotiated the restoration of career earnings for post-2011 entrants to 95% of that of earlier entrants. We will restore the remaining 5% in the forthcoming public service pay talks. We will deliver the benchmarking award for school leaders and we will deliver significant restoration for all our members in the South together with a multi-annual agreement for members in the North.

There’s no doubt that our influence on curricular issues and on investment in education lessened after the economic crash, as we tried to prioritise the protection of members jobs and salaries. But in the last two years we have re-established our strong position not least due to the highly organised political lobbying we have conducted at local and national levels.

My own dream that the concept of in-school probation be removed from the landscape is about to become a reality, we have stopped co-operating with School Self-Evaluation as leverage to deliver the re-introduction of 1200 promotional posts from next September. Likewise we have refused to co-operate with the Inspectorate in Northern Ireland until our members recive a fair pay award.We have delivered a small increase in release time for teaching principals and we have restored most of the resource teaching posts we had lost since 2011. We have a lot more ground to make up. I intend to lead INTO in the fight to quickly restore the conditions and services lost to teachers and to the education system by restoring salaries, promotional posts, staffing and funding to levels appropriate to the 21st century.

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