SECONDARY schools face the prospect of major disruption after a teachers' union rejected pay cuts and voted for industrial action.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) was isolated last night when members delivered a two-to-one "no" to the Haddington Road agreement – backing up their decision with a threat of industrial action, including a strike.
The other second-level union, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) voted to accept the deal by 54pc-46pc; while primary teachers accepted it some months ago.
Around 475 schools in both the voluntary secondary and community and comprehensive sectors, where the ASTI has members, were bracing themselves for classroom chaos.
The ASTI outcome means its members will suffer greater financial pain than those workers who have accepted the terms of Haddington Road.
The Government took a hard line and introduced legislation to be impose cuts from July 1 if unions did not sign up.
Their decision will see teachers on different pay scales for the first time in over 40 years.
ASTI members will be subject to a three-year freeze on increments that will have lifelong impact on their pay and pension. New teachers, who are members of the ASTI, will also have lower pay scales and suffer other penalties.
But the education of 230,000 pupils in the schools in which they teach will suffer also.
All eyes are now on a meeting of the ASTI leadership, which is due to take place on Monday.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he was very disappointed at their decision and will discuss the matter with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and other cabinet colleagues .
Even without striking, the 17,000 ASTI members can cause considerable disruption by withdrawing from productivity agreements drawn up under the earlier Croke Park deal.
Under that agreement, the union signed up to work an additional 33 hours per year .
Ciaran Flynn, general secretary of the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools (ACCS) said the move would cause severe difficulties.
"If managements have to bring meetings about school planning into tuition time it will be a loss for students.
"It is a great pity for our students because at the end of the day, that is who it is going to affect."
Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body, which represents management in about 380 voluntary secondary schools – those traditionally run by the religious – said is was " important that we ensure continuity of teaching and learning".
ASTI rejected Haddington Road by 63pc-37pc.
There was 65pc support for industrial action, on a turnout of 55pc which was regarded as respectable; the numbers who voted in the TUI ballot was higher, at 65pc.
ASTI is the only union to have rejected the deal, so far. Only one more ballot result is awaited – from the Irish Federation of University Teachers on Monday.
ASTI general secretary Pat King said the Haddington Road deal was "a step too far".
"Second-level schools are at the tipping point, having been stripped of key supports and personnel," he said.
"Teachers' message today is that they have given enough. All second-level teachers are delivering more, with far less resources, at a time when their pay has been cut significantly and their working conditions have greatly disimproved.
"Young people's education has been diminished and their futures compromised.
"Haddington Road means taking more from education and from teachers."
Mr King said teachers were reluctant to take industrial action but the depth of feeling among ASTI members was evidenced in the ballot result on industrial action.