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Thursday 21 September 2017

Parents call for ASTI to end teachers' dispute

Paul Melia and  Katherine Donnelly

THE National Parents Council has intervened in the dispute in secondary schools and called on teachers to accept changes in their terms and conditions.

The National Parents Council Post-Primary (NPCPP) has urged members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) to vote in favour of changes to the Haddington Road Agreement to bring an end to industrial action across hundreds of schools.

Council president Don Myers said parents were beginning to get "irritated" at the ongoing disruption, which has dragged on for more than a month. He said that parents were being forced to take time off from work to attend parent-teacher meetings and that if the action continued it would result in irritation from parents becoming "more noticeable".

His comments came after ASTI general secretary Pat King warned that industrial action would escalate if members rejected a package agreed in talks last week intended to make changes to the Haddington Road public sector pay and productivity agreement.

If rejected, pupils and their parents in more than two out of every three second-level schools will face even more disruption from the new year.

It follows the decision by the central executive committee (CEC) of the ASTI to recommend rejection of the package agreed in talks last week.

"They have suffered years of cutbacks, and years of pay cuts and years of reduced numbers," Mr King told RTE.

"Thirty per cent of our teachers at second level are part-time. Morale is very low and that's a fact and the executive reflects that.

DISRUPTION

"That was as far as we could bring the negotiations – and we brought back as much as we could. The executive have decided that is not sufficient, and that's where we are.

"I can't pre-judge what the ASTI will do – members will make their own decisions. If we vote no, we will continue our industrial action because teachers' pay has been unilaterally cut by government. We will further ratchet up industrial action."

The union has members in 70pc of second-level schools, which have already suffered disruption, including closures to allow for meetings with parents, because of an industrial action directive not to participate in meetings after school hours.

ASTI is the only public service union not to accept Haddington Road, and a decision by members to reject the revised deal is certain to lead to a ratcheting up of the dispute with the Government.

So far, the Government has held back on imposing more punitive measures provided for in the FEMPI (Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) legislation on pay and productivity, introduced during the summer. It could be used to implement changes in the event of a 'no' vote.

It could provoke Education Minister Ruairi Quinn into insisting all ASTI members sign up for supervision and substitution work, a key bone of contention in the dispute – but this could lead to an all-out strike.

The Department of Education said the union "has a decision to make and we will await that decision and consider its implications".

Irish Independent

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