David Begg: talks collapsed

No strike action will be taken by the country's 60,000 teachers before Ictu's day of action on 30 March, union sources have confirmed. Secondary and primary teachers last week voted substantially in favour of industrial action in protest against the government's handling of the economic crisis and the public service pension levy.

The Into, Asti and the TUI all backed action up to and including strike action, which will be coordinated among the three unions. Ifut, which represents university teachers, is to begin balloting its members next week.

The three teacher unions will meet later this week to decide on what precise form of action they will take in the coming weeks.

However, with the exception of the national day of action on 30 March, full scale strike action is unlikely at this point, with any action more likely to be limited to withdrawing cooperation from school programmes.

The three teacher unions said the decision to take action was a "difficult one for teachers who, as well as facing difficult economic circumstances, are well aware of the impact of the economic crisis on the communities in which they live and work."

But the teachers unions added that the ballot clearly showed "the anger of teachers at government's in­equit­able handling of the crisis".

Meanwhile, the prospects of a resumption of national recovery talks between the social partners are receding by the day.

While extensive behind-the-scenes contacts have been ongoing between senior government officials and David Begg of Ictu and Turlough O'Sullivan of Ibec, since the talks collapsed last month, no firm basis for a resumption of the talks has yet been agreed.

Fear of failure again has been one of the main stumbling blocks to a resumption of the talks.

With the long weekend looming, this week is seen as the last chance to kick start the talks.

"If it doesn't happen this week, it is unlikely to happen at all," one senior trade union leader said at the week-end.