THERE were angry scenes outside the Laois VEC offices on Monday last when approximately 60 teachers from VEC schools around Laois staged a protest to express their anger at the transfer of two teachers from Portlaoise College.
Teachers from the union were supported by passers by who blew their car horns and stopped to talk. The President of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, Mr Gerald Craughwell was also present to show his support.
Speaking to the Leinster Express, chairperson of the Laois branch of the TUI Mary Higgins said that there has been no communication between teachers and Laois VEC CEO Anne O’ Keefe since last week. “There were about 60 people at last week’s meeting and it was unanimously agreed to hold a ballot for industrial action up to and including strike action. We have stil lto ballot members to agree the precise nature of the action but it will be a type of non co-operation with the VEC”.
Mr Craughwell said that he had been at many TUI meetings over the years and he had never seen people as angry as at the emergency TUI meeting held last week. “The problem is the initial process was found to be flawed. Any reasonable person should bring in all sides. It has to be open, transparent and done in a fair way. I am willing at any stage to meet with the CEO, I don’t believe in waiting for a potential fire. I am very anxious to see that we can sit down and talk”.
One teacher said that there is a lot fo upset over the issue. “There is huge anger, this is a mjor injustice and can’t be allowed to go unchallenged. Another said that the Laois VEC CEO is in breach of a national agreement and misinterpreted paragraph 6 of the teacher transfer agreement.
Retired teacher Donncha O’ Riordan told the Leinster Express that the situation was regrettable. “It is always regrettable when two professionals cannot sit and resolve their differences ina professional manner. I moved to Laois in 1956 and this is the third time I have supported teachers like this. All these matters should be resolved, it is upsetting teachers”.
Another teacher protesting said that the agreement was the only element of fairness left. “ We were relying on being good at our jobs and that being important. We have gone through every process there was and the grievance process was delayed over the summer, with the Labour Relations Commission held in August. She is pushing the boat and if she gets away with this nobody is secure. I wouldn’t be here if the process was fair”.
Speaking after the protest Mary Higgins told the Leinster Express that teachers were delighted with how the protest went. “We received a lot of support from people passing by and we have received support from TDs Brian Stanley and Charlie Flanagan. We are currently organising the paperwork to go through with the ballot early next week. However we are open to discussion and debate on the dispute”.