Friday 20 October 2017

ASTI complains after losing members to TUI in dispute over teacher pay and reforms

Emma O’Reilly, Navan, at an ASTI protest for equal pay. Photo: Arthur Carron
Emma O’Reilly, Navan, at an ASTI protest for equal pay. Photo: Arthur Carron
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A teaching union is furious that its former members are joining another union after it battled against acceptance of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and Junior Cert reforms.

About 1,200 members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) resigned this year, and the belief is many of those are now members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI).

The number may include retirees, but with annual ASTI membership fees ranging from €337 for a full-time teacher, to €50 for part-timer on less than 11 hours a week, a transfer of members would represent a major long-term financial drain.

The ASTI has now complained to the Irish Congress of Trades Unions (Ictu) about the phenomenon. The ASTI's heavy membership losses happened during the months when members were missing out on pay increases - and for many young teachers, a permanent contract - because of their ongoing rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA).

Rising discontent spilled on to the floor at the union's annual Easter conference when delegates spoke openly about people leaving.

The ASTI finally accepted the Lansdowne Road Agreement and Junior Cert reforms in June, after a grassroots movement forced a special delegate convention to reconsider its position.

Now the ASTI complaint over its lost members is being considered by Ictu although, at this stage, it has not been referred to its Disputes Committee.

Ictu has an "anti-poaching" agreement that prohibits unions taking advantage of a dispute and recruiting members of another union.

It is not clear whether the departing ASTI members would have declared their previous affiliation to the TUI.

Neither union would comment, other than to confirm that the matter was going through Ictu processes.

A teacher's union affiliation generally depends on the school sector in which they work, with the ASTI representing those in voluntary secondary schools - traditionally run or, previously run, by the religious.

The TUI largely negotiates for those in schools managed by local education and training boards. The unions share representation in the community and comprehensive school sector.

The ASTI will ballot its members next month on Lansdowne Road's successor. The recommendation is to reject the pay deal - but with members licking their wounds after the financial pain of delayed acceptance of the LRA, it remains to be seen how they will respond.

The deal, the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), has been accepted by a majority of Ictu unions, although other teachers' unions have rejected it this time, because it has not ended two-tier pay scales.

But the terms of the PSSA will apply to members of all unions unless they "repudiate" it by taking industrial action.

The INTO executive agreed on Friday to participate in a Government review on pay equality, but a spokesman said it did not mean it was signing up.

An INTO activist group, Glór, which is campaigning for pay equality, said it was appalled by the decision of the union leadership to enter into talks.

Irish Independent

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