ASTI to ballot for strike action if extra working hour leads to pay cut for teachers
The row between secondary teachers and the Government has escalated with a decision by the ASTI to ballot for strike action if there is any interference with members pay and conditions when they stop working the 33 Croke Park hours in September.
If the dispute is not resolved, it could lead to major disruption to, and possible closure of more than half the country's secondary schools when they re-open after the summer holidays.
The strike action move by the union's ruling body, the ASTI Standing Committee, follows the 69-31 vote in favour of withdrawing the extra hour a week productivity introduced at the height of the national financial crisis.
The 33 hours were introduced for second-level teachers in the Croke Park Agreement for public servants, continued through the subsequent Haddington Road Agreement and they are also a part of the new Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA).
The LRA – which has been accepted by virtually all unions - is offering partial pay restoration after the era of cuts and concessions, such as ongoing protection against compulsory redundancy for teachers in schools where there is a surplus.
However, the ASTI has voted against the deal, and the ballot on refusing to continue to work the 33 hours means it has a mechanism in place with which to respond to any action by the Government against members.
The Department of Education has taken a hardline on the issue and said that refusing to work the 33 hours from September would represent a repudiation of the LRA
A spokesperson for Education Minister Richard Bruton warned this week that such a move would have major implications for students and schools.
The stand off means that schools where the ASTI has members are facing a highly volatile situation when they re-open in September.
A vote on strike action could be triggered for a number of reasons, including if the Department of Education penalised teachers for refusing to work the 33 hours from September.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) has accepted the LRA. The other second-level teachers' union, the TUI, has rejected it but, following discussions with the Department of Education it putting it out to ballot again with a “yes” recommendation.