Tension remain between teachers and Laois VEC over a dispute which almost led to a strike in schools.
Last week LAOIS VEC chief executive Anne O’Keeffe welcomed the decision by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) arbitrator on the recent dispute between Laois VEC and the Laois branch of the TUI over teacher transfers.
The LRC ruled in favour of the VEC in the transfer of teachers outside the terms of last-in-first-out norm.
Speaking at the December meeting of Laois VEC, Ms O’Keeffe made her first public statement on the dispute.
“As the members know I refrained from making any statement on the matter to the media, despite many and frequent requests, and dispite many erroneous and misleading statements which were made to the media by others”.
Ms O’ Keeffe said that she wanted to put on the record that her decision was always motivated by one consideration which was how best to meet the educational needs of the students participating in the scheme’s programmes.
“I very much welcome the finding of the LRC arbitrator that I acted in accordance with the terms of the IVEA/TUI agrgeement and that it is my statutory responsibility to decide on what satisfies the educational needs of the scheme. I do not accept that the arbitrator’s decision was based on technical considerations, as stated by the TUI; I believe that it went to the very core of the matter regarding the basis on which decisions regarding transfers are made”.
Ms O’ Keeffe also acknowledged the “professionalism and commitment” of the teachers who work in the scheme, without whom the scheme would not be possible,” she said.
“It was with that in mind that I made a conciliatory offer during the course of the dispute. The fact that the TUI locally rejected that offer is a matter for its members”.
She assured employees of the scheme that she would never, under any circumstances transfer staff members “on a whim”. She added that her decisions were and will always be based on “last in first out, subject to the educational needs of the school or scheme.”
“It is my earnest wish that we can now all refocus on the essential work of the scheme in the spirit of mutual respect and co-operation,” she concluded.
However, teachers representative Gerry Quinn said that teachers were “angry and aprehensive” about the LRC finding and he asked for clarity on the teacher transfer agreement. He said that the LRC report was “silent on fairness in transfers” and told the meeting that the TUI would be withdrawing from the agreement.
In a statement to the Leinster Express, Mr Quinn said that “it’s inevitable that TUI will withdraw from the 1999 TUI/IVEA transfer agreement as it does not now do what it was intended to do, and did in practice up to this Laois dispute. A formal TUI decision cannot be made until January because that`s when our executive meets next.”
He said that a new national transfer agreement for the VEC is “urgently” needed to protect TUI members. “I`ll be seeking to ensure that the necessary safeguards are put in place to protect teachers from the type of situation that arose here,” he added.