I think we need to come back a few spaces and stop a while to think things through before we start shouting about and fighting for, our rights.  A right that is just, expresses what we want, need or feel but not at the expense of others i.e. not violating other people’s rights.  With just rights come well thought-out just responsibilities like:

Right: I have the right to make a mistake

Responsibility:  I have the responsibility to acknowledge the mistake, to put it right and to learn from it

Right:  I have a right to a fair hearing of my opinions, views and ideas

Responsibility:  I have the responsibility to put my views clearly, with respect and with balance

I was so struck by this during the Irish secondary school teacher strikes/refusal to perform full duties, in Irish schools over the past few weeks.  The complacent and law-abiding Irish, while taking all that was thrown at us since 2008, without much grumbling unlike some of our other European friends, are now looking for pay restoration, amongst other things. When I say Irish, it is really the public service, because the private sector must continue to take it all on-the-chin no matter what ( only hope that the economy will continue to improve).

What I think Irish Secondary School Teachers (members of the ASTI union) need to take regard of is the intrinsic link between rights and responsibilities.  With just rights come just responsibilities that take into account the rights of others who may be affected e.g.,: my right to strike comes with responsibilities to my students: their learning and development, their wellbeing and welfare; their understanding of work ethic…

Take a look at some of the rights commonly held by people below and consider the responsibilities that go with them, this might encourage them to think twice before voting for strike action as the way to resolve their differences with their employer:

Rights Responsibilities
I have the right to strike I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to be paid fairly I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to stay out of collective agreements I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to refuse to work extra duties unless paid extra for them I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to be heard I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to my view which may differ from the collective view or the views of others in the same position as I I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to have input into the way the work is organised when it directly affects me and my ability to perform the work I have the responsibility to…………
I have the right to work in accordance with my values I have the responsibility to…………

I would really like to hear some of the responsibilities going with the above rights.  Contact me if you think my view on what these could be, would be of help!

Thinking before fighting for our rights, to focus on the related responsibilities and testing them to see if they are just, can help bring attention to what is truly important and encourage us to keep looking for a better more constructive way to resolve conflict.  It’s not easy, it’s a challenge, but who said the best solution would be without stuggle.

Anne Marie

Anne Marie Crowley conducts training workshops and coaching, in Assertiveness and Conflict Resolution, make contact on:

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