ASTI the 'North Korea of trade union movement', claims delegate
A fractious debate on pay revealed deep divisions within the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI).
One delegate at the union's annual conference described the ASTI as the "North Korea of the trade union movement".
During a fiery one-hour debate, several delegates expressed concerns about the losses being suffered to members by their long-running disputes and about losing members over its strategy; others supported the union's stance.
The ASTI is the only union not to have accepted the Lansdowne Road Pay Agreement (LRA) and is also resisting junior cycle reforms.
As a result, ASTI members are losing out on improved pay and conditions. Young teachers are worst hit - currently up to €220 a month behind their counterparts in other teacher unions, and they also have to wait four years for a permanent contract, rather than two years agreed under the LRA.
Fintan O'Mahony, of the Waterford branch, said they were deluding themselves, that the "war for everyone else is long over and we are a hermit kingdom. The ASTI has become the North Korea of the trade union movement".
Richard Terry, of the Fermoy branch, said ASTI young teachers were not only missing out on pay increases but were also losing out on contracts of indefinite duration (CID). He referred to reports that almost 450 members had left the union in the first three months of this year.
"Why are they going, because they want a guaranteed CID; we are denying them," he said.
Noel Buckley, of the Tipperary branch, said they were all behind the principle of equal pay, pay restoration and an end to the FEMPI legislation, but they were "stripping members of their rights".
He said as a result of Government cuts, since 2011, there were three pay scales for teachers, but now the ASTI was responsible for a fourth pay scale.
Noel Hogan of the Monaghan branch said the union was currently involved in a "zombie campaign".
The conference was debating a motion seeking vigorous opposition to any future national pay agreement that did not guarantee equal pay for equal work, provide an end date for pay restoration and terminate the FEMPI legislation, which was carried by a clear majority.
Later, in his keynote address, ASTI president Ed Byrne said the union was being punished for fighting for principles, such as pay equality and the right to normal industrial relations mechanisms that it was being denied through the imposition of the FEMPI legislation, which gives the Government arbitrary powers over pay and conditions.