Thursday 22 June 2017

ASTI plan to stop working extra 33 hours

Kieran Christie. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Kieran Christie. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Secondary teachers are planning to stop working an extra 33 hours a year agreed under austerity-era public service pay and productivity deals.

Teacher unions signed up to the hours in 2011, to provide time for meetings about school affairs outside the normal working day.

But now the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is threatening to stop working them from September, as part of its campaign to reverse cuts in pay and conditions.

This is the third war front that the ASTI, which represents teachers in about two-thirds of second-level schools, has opened with the Government.

The union is also preparing for a series of one-day strikes in September in opposition to junior cycle reform, and will ballot on industrial action if there is no meaningful progress on ending two-tier pay scales for teachers by August 31.

The 33 additional hours were agreed under the Croke Park Agreement, the first in a series of deals between the Government and public service unions in response to the economic crash.

The so-called Croke Park hours are a productivity concession given by teachers in return for a commitment to no compulsory redundancies, and no pay cuts.

The requirement to work the extra hours was continued in the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA), which expires in June.

The HRA is being replaced by the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), but the ASTI has rejected its terms and say it will not be bound by the majority decision of other public service unions to accept it.

The ASTI annual conference took the issue a step further yesterday with a unanimous call on the union leadership to issue a directive to members to stop working the 33 hours once the HRA expires in June.

However, a final decision on the matter will rest with a ballot of members, which union general secretary Kieran Christie said would be required.

Refusing to work the hours will put the ASTI on another collision course with the Government and it remains to be seen how the Government would respond.

An option open to the Government would be deciding not to apply pay concessions linked to acceptance of the LRA to ASTI members. These concessions would involve a lifting of the freeze on increments along with salary increases totalling €1,592, to be phased in from September.

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie told delegates that discussions they have had with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would suggest that even if a union is outside the LRA, but does nothing to repudiate the terms of the agreement, then its terms will be applied to ASTI members.

A refusal by the ASTI not to work the 33 hours would likely be seen by Government as a repudiation of the LRA, so setting the scene for confrontation.

Irish Independent

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