Teachers protest 'in frustration' at VEC

NAAS, 11 July 2001: by Brian Byrne. Members of the Teachers Union of Ireland attached to County Kildare VEC protested yesterday to show their 'frustration' over the VEC's refusal to administer an Additional Voluntary Contributions Scheme which is operated by every other VEC in the country.

More than 20% of the 250 teachers in the county system are affected by the situation, over the failure of the VEC to deduct at source contributions from the salaries of teachers. The scheme allows members without enough service to gain a full pension to 'buy' extra years of service prior to their retirement.

The scheme is operated by a private company and is approved by VECs throughout the country, and participating teachers get a discount when joined as part of a local group.

County Kildare VEC does operate the scheme for some teachers, but the current situation appears to be rooted in an inter-union dispute where some members of the IMPACT union are refusing to administer the scheme for any new teachers. KNN understands that the IMPACT members are aggrieved over a picket action taken last year by the teachers in support of a colleague's pension rights. Though the TUI says it goes back over 'a number of years' to when administrative staff were in dispute over understaffing.

"But that problem has been resolved for some time, yet we are unable to get the VEC to deduct the contributions from any new teachers," says Kildare TUI Branch Chairperson Michael Byrnes.

According to National President of the TUI John MacGabhann (pictured here on the right with teacher Dave Cahill) the Kildare situation is creating difficulties for teachers trying to plan their retirements, and also leaves those outside the scheme in a less favourable tax and PRSI situation than colleagues in the scheme.

And on the face of it, there seem to be some extraordinary elements to the matter. It appears that the IMPACT members demanded an 'apology' for the picket action taken last year, and also a statement from the TUI on its policy on industrial action.

In the course of a mediation effort by Kildare VEC chairman Senator Sean O Fearghaill, a 'letter of explanation' was provided by the TUI, and a statement on industrial action policy.

However, the IMPACT staff have not accepted the letter as an 'apology' and the situation remains stalemated.

The CEO of Kildare VEC is on leave and unavailable for comment. But Senator O Fearghaill told KNN last night that he is 'very disappointed' that the situation has not been sorted out and the AVCs being deducted 'as they should be'.

The matter has been on the agenda of County Kildare VEC for over a year, but has constantly been deferred. There are nine schools in the county's VEC network.