In my recent editorial, I lamented the fact that the ASTI leaders had allowed themselves to be manoeuvred into a position of being the last ones standing when the music stopped.
Following that, I was abroad at a conference for a few days and on my return was dismayed at the photo looking out at me from the front page of The Irish Times – ranks of male Gardaí (where have all the Ban Gardaí gone?) conveying the simple message: “We want ALL our money back, and we want it now.”
So the ASTI leaders have a companion now in challenging the Government and demanding a full reversal of the cuts imposed since the economic crash. Will two succeed where one might have failed?
At any other time over the past several hundred years, a Government faced with this challenge might eventually yield to demands and restore teachers and Gardaí to their salary of eight years before because by this time the real purchasing value of that salary would have been at least 25 per cent less. Unfortunately that option is not open to the current Government because inflation over the past eight years in Ireland has been next to nothing.
My own teaching salary is at least ten thousand less than it was in 2008, but I realise that back then it was being paid for from the Niagara-Falls-like flood of money pouring into the Government coffers from property tax. This country cannot afford to restore my 2008 purchasing power or that of my fellow teachers, or the 12,000 Gardaí for that matter.
Everybody in both the Government and the trade union movement understands that basic fact, which is why Pat King of the ASTI in 2015 and the GRA executive over the past few months in 2016, negotiated the maximum possible available in the kitty for their members.
But the members of the ASTI and GRA on the ground don’t want to know. They believe that the power of their political muscle will somehow win them what they want. If it does it will undo all the hard work of the late Brian Lenihan and Michael Noonan to restore Ireland to economic health, and will plunge us back into economic uncertainty.
Painful and all as it is to admit it, the interests of the Republic must trump that of the two unions still holding out against the Lansdowne Road agreement.