Wednesday 7 December 2016

ASTI faces lone stance against Government on pay

Published 26/09/2016 | 02:30

Education Minister Richard Bruton reiterated an invitation to the ASTI to engage in discussions, but there has been no response from the union yet.
Education Minister Richard Bruton reiterated an invitation to the ASTI to engage in discussions, but there has been no response from the union yet.

Secondary teachers now face a lone battle in their dispute with Government over the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) on pay and productivity in the public service.

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As two separate Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) ballots on industrial action get under way this week, the union is isolated in the wake of a likely deal on pay equality for newly recruited gardaí.

Proposals that emerged on Friday night are expected to pave the way for a resolution of the garda pay dispute.

Following its rejection of the LRA, the ASTI is seeking two separate mandates from members, which could close more than half of the country's second-level schools by early November. These are the schools where the ASTI represents all or many of the teachers.

The ASTI has asked its members to vote to withdraw from supervision and substitution duties and, separately, to take action, up to and including strike, on the issue of pay equality.

The other two teacher unions, the TUI and the INTO, have accepted the LRA, as a result of which their members are starting to see a reversal of cuts in pay and allowances imposed during the financial crisis.

ASTI members are not benefiting from the pay restoration measures, which started this month with the return of €796 a year, half the allowance for doing supervision and substitution.

Read more: Two-thirds of secondary schools face closure as teachers' union threatens strike action over pay

Read more: Pay deal is on the way to bring equality to 7,000 younger teachers

Newly qualified teachers in the ASTI stand to lose the most, after a top-up deal to the LRA, involving pay rises of almost €2,000 a year, reversing a cut that axed qualifications allowances for teachers recruited since 2012. It is broadly similar to what is now being offered to members of the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

The combination of the LRA measures and the top-up deal means that young teachers who are members of the ASTI could be on €6,000 a year less in January 2018 than their counterparts in the TUI and INTO, if the dispute is not resolved.

As the ASTI dispute continues, the TUI has seen a surge in membership since the start of the school year. Many newly recruited teachers and teachers who were not members of any union have joined the TUI to benefit from the pay restoration measures, and other benefits of accepting the LRA, such as a shorter wait for a Contract of Indefinite Duration (CID) for new recruits.

There is also much anecdotal evidence of existing ASTI members finding ways around an anti-poaching agreement - which prohibits members of one union transferring to another at the time of a dispute - and signing up to the TUI.

Last week, Education Minister Richard Bruton reiterated an invitation to the ASTI to engage in discussions, but there has been no response from the union yet.

Meanwhile, the outcome of negotiations between the Department of Justice and the GRA will be assessed by the assocation's executive committee today before it decides whether to put the offer to its members.

The proposals, on the restoration of a rent allowance of €4,000 for recently and newly recruited gardaí, need the endorsement of rank-and-file gardaí.

The deal has emerged a few days ahead of the result of a ballot of the GRA's 10,000 members on industrial action over the pay row, which is due tomorrow. If the offer is accepted, the threat of action should be averted.

In a statement, the GRA said discussions with the Department of Justice had concluded and a document would be presented to the assocation's central executive committee for its consideration.

Irish Independent

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