Teachers to join Croke talks and lift action next week
SECONDARY teachers will lift their industrial action next Monday after reluctantly agreeing to enter talks about new work practice under the Croke Park pay and productivity deal.
The decision by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) means its 18,500 members will co-operate with elements of day-to-day school business from which they had withdrawn support for up to 18 months.
Teachers responded to education cuts by banning parent-teacher and planning meetings outside schools hours, imposing limits on class sizes, restricting co-operation with school evaluations and preventing rotation of duties at middle-management level.
The 91-41 vote by the ASTI 180-member central executive committee on Saturday clears the way for talks with the Department of Education on the implementation of reforms envisaged in the Croke Park Agreement.
The deal provides for an extra hour's work per week, a review of the teachers' contract, cross-sectoral redeployment and extra periods of availability for supervision and substitution work.
The department recently warned the changes would be imposed unilaterally if teachers did not lift their action and enter talks.
The ASTI said it remained opposed to the Croke Park deal. General secretary Pat King last night warned the matter was "not over yet" and that the ASTI would be going back to members to vote on what emerged from the talks.
"Under-resourced schools are being further undermined by an increase in the pupil-teacher ratio and a moratorium on middle-management posts," he said.
Mr King said the lifting of the industrial action in relation to posts of responsibility did not mean extra work could be loaded on teachers and schools would have to make clear their priorities.
The Government decision to impose a moratorium on filling middle-management positions, such as year heads or exams co-ordinators, was exacerbated by the decision of teacher unions to restrict the transfer of members into vacant posts that were deemed priorities by school managers.
The talks are expected to continue for several weeks and it is expected that the ASTI vote on the outcome will take place in November.
The Irish National Teachers Organisation voted in favour of the Croke Park deal and is in discussions with the department about its implementation.
The Teachers Union of Ireland, which also opposed the deal, is considering its position and is holding a special delegate conference on September 25 to decide whether to lift its action and enter talks.