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The Union of Students in Ireland has called on the Labour Party to re-affirm its commitment to free college education ahead of its annual Parliamentary Party think-in.

In the Sunday Independent the Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn said that it was time to re-negotiate the Croke Park agreement. 80% of the Department of Education’s budget is spent on pay and pensions and the Croke Park agreement renders this untouchable. USI urges the Minister and his colleagues to urgently seek a re-negotiation of the agreement in order to ensure that students and their families won’t be targeted for further cutbacks and fee increases.

The pay of senior academics and staff, incremental wage increases and entitlements all need to be examined before Budget 2013. Further cuts to the grant and increases in tuition fees are inequitable and unsustainable ways to fund a sector that is overflowing with wasteful spending.

UCC President Michael Murphy is now on record saying that he finds it ‘challenging’ to live on €232,000. Dr Murphy is the highest paid university President in the country. His comments come after a Deloitte and Touche report detailed the spending splurge of former WIT President Kieran Byrne and the comments of Dr Ed Walsh, founding President of UL, on Prime Time, who dismissed examples of overspending in the sector as ‘red herrings’.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, Labour Party MEP Nessa Childers said, “[Labour’s] mandate with [its] members and the public is being stretched to breaking point.” She wrote of the need to discard the orthodoxy of austerity and urged parliamentarians to demand that Labour’s distinct policies be delivered. One of these policies is a commitment not to increase fees and to protect the maintenance grant.

USI President John Logue said:

“There is now a consensus building around the need to re-negotiate the Croke Park agreement. Pat Rabbitte, Brian Hayes, James Reilly and Leo Varadkar have joined Minister Quinn in his call for pay and pensions to be examined as a necessary part of any government spending review. Thousands of students are stretched to breaking point and many have already dropped out due to the ever-increasing cost of college.

Wasteful spending and excessive wages have to be addressed by the Minister, instead of shifting the funding burden onto students and their families.”

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