City Union Branch is Suspended

Eoghan Dalton Reports

The Waterford city branch of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), representing school teachers, has been suspended by its Executive for public comments its chairperson made about oversight at a post-primary school. The decision was taken by the union’s head office on November 9th after the local branch’s chairperson criticised the management of St Paul’s Community College, the Education and Training Board (ETB) and the union itself.The secretary of the now suspended branch, Tom Creedon, said he found the decision unusual despite spending 38 years in the union, including 12 on its National Executive. He said there was a suggestion that branch chair Una Dunphy should not have spoken to media as the TUI has its own press officer. But, he said, “she was responding to an issue locally”.
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The TUI Executive Committee made the decision at a meeting on the 9th of November and the branch was officially informed on the 14th. However, branch members told this newspaper that the information had leaked and they’d learned beforehand a suspension was coming. Mr Creedon told this newspaper that the branch was not asked for an explanation of the comments prior to the Executive Committee deciding to hand down a suspension. He added that the branch has been told any comments it wishes to make will be taken into account, but he insisted this should have happened before the Executive took any decision and raises further questions about the procedure taken by the TUI. “It does seem that the treatment of the Waterford city branch is especially harsh.”

Speaking earlier this month after several school staff at St Paul’s Community College had received serious discipline letters from the management, Ms Dunphy said: “It’s possibly a whole systems failure working here. There’s so many aspects that should kick in, like Boards of Management, the people who are picked to be on Boards of Management…I will say I wonder about trade unionism here, [if] there been a flaw with how we do it, because things are much better when they’re nipped in the bud – not allowed to fester over years and get worse and worse.

A point of tension between local and national TUI members is that when workplace issues arise, said Tom Creedon, the ETB deals with union officials instead of local elected members. This practice has remained in place despite attempts by the Waterford city branch to change the policy at the union’s national congress.
“Where people come to reps to be looked after, the job of (national) officials should be to assist because they wouldn’t have knowledge of what’s going on locally on the ground,” he added. “The one who wears the shoe knows where it hurts.”Branch members outside of St Paul’s, according to Mr Creedon, are “absolutely bewildered” and like him want to know what procedures were used by the union executive when making the decision.

“There is a lot of stress there among staff at St Paul’s, and while some do feel the matter should have been kept private, others wanted it be made public,” he added.
The Executive Committee will now manage the affairs of the branch’s members, numbering roughly 150. A TUI spokesperson responded Monday afternoon to this newspaper’s request for comment. They did not comment on whether there is a specific rule prohibiting local branch members from speaking to the media, and nor did they comment on Mr Creedon’s assertion that the city branch was not allowed to put a case forward before the decision was taken to suspend the branch. The statement read:
“This matter is being addressed by the TUI through its own structures, and for now representation of the members of the branch is being provided by and through the Area Representative and the relevant TUI Head Office Official. The Union will not be commenting further at this time.”

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