Union encourages teaching of trade unionism at primary – Trade Union Week

To coincide with the launch of Ireland’s first Trade Union Week today, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation is encouraging discussions around the role of trade unions in Irish society in primary schools across Ireland.

To commemorate the historic struggles of workers and the gains made through the labour movement, the INTO has designed a series of engaging lesson plans called Trade Unions 101. These lesson plans are not time-sensitive, or confined to use during Trade Union Week, and they can be used at any stage of the school year with pupils in 5th/6th class (Primary 7/Year 8 pupils in the north).

Trade Unions 101 is an INTO school-based resource designed by teachers for teachers. The digital lesson pack is divided into five lessons which are available via the Trade Unions 101 Hub on the INTO website. Along with detailed lesson plans and teacher footnotes, the resource pack contains PowerPoint presentations, case studies, and other multimedia resources to enhance and augment the learning experience for children. As always, schools are welcome to share their engagement with the resource on social media using #TradeUnions101.

Included in the video resources is a message from former Irish Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary Patricia King. In the video, Patricia gives children a warm welcome to the lessons. Speaking about the project, Patricia King said:

Trade unions work hard to make sure that all workers are treated well, that their employer pays them fairly for the work that they do and that their workplace is safe. These are essential principles to teach our young people as they mature and join the workforce.

Trade Unions 101 shows us it is never too early to learn about fairness, equality and the values upheld by trade unionism. I hope through these lessons, they will come to see the value of trade unions and that we are indeed stronger together.

The lessons cover an introduction to trade unions, the benefits of union membership, the trade union movement in the early 20th century, Jim Larkin and the 1913 lockout and the modern movement. Through engaging lessons and role play, children will learn how the modern movement works to protect workers’ rights.

The lessons are available in English and Irish and are being shared with primary schools across the country, and primary and post-primary schools in the North.

Marking the launch of Trade Unions 101, INTO President Carmel Browne said:

The trade union movement is Ireland’s largest civic society organisation. It is important that the future generation of workers learns about the benefits of trade union membership. I’m encouraging schools to engage with these lesson plans and help us share the work of the union movement far and wide.

Advocating for senior class teachers to deliver the Trade Unions 101 programme during term 3, INTO Deputy General Secretary Deirdre O’Connor added that:

Our series of lessons, which is supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and SIPTU, will teach 10–12-year-old children that unions negotiate, or bargain, with employers about wages, working conditions, and the legal rights of their members.

These discussions might cover, among other topics, the number of hours worked, the amount of paid leave workers are entitled to and safety in the workplace. This year alongside ICTU’s Better in a Trade Union campaign we are encouraging all who teach senior classes in primary schools to use out Trade Union 101 programme during the Summer term.

Designed by teachers for teachers, the INTO Trade Unions 101 campaign is designed to introduce children to the history and modern role of the trade union movement, equipping them with an age-appropriate introductory knowledge well before they themselves enter the workforce.