Thursday 21 September 2017

Teachers not able to switch union as strike action looms

Katherine Donnelly and Martin Frawley

TEACHERS will not be allowed to switch unions to avoid being part of the dispute with the Government over pay.

The two second-level unions have signed an anti-poaching deal that will prevent any member of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) transferring to the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI).

ASTI members currently stand to suffer far greater pain on salary and conditions, such as losing protection against redundancy, after rejecting the Haddington Road Agreement on pay and productivity.

The TUI has accepted the deal – and young teachers in the union will have about €2,000 extra a year as a result. And TUI members will not suffer the same freeze on increments to be imposed on the ASTI.

About 500 second-level schools, where the ASTI has members, are facing the threat of disruption after the 17,000-member union announced a programme of industrial action, starting next Wednesday, in support of their case.

They have banned meetings outside of school hours, and won't take on additional middle-management duties without pay. They may opt out of covering for colleagues absent on school business and won't participate in training for the new Junior Cert.

Another potential flashpoint is the issue of supervision and substitution (S&S) in schools.

Under Haddington Road, members of the TUI and the primary teachers' INTO will be required to do supervision and substitution duties – for no pay.

BURDEN

Ironically, because they have not signed up to the deal, there is no such burden on ASTI members, who also expect to be paid the annual pre-Haddington Road payment of up to €1,769.

It puts the Department of Education in a very awkward position.

A senior government official said yesterday that it would be "very unfair" if ASTI members were to continue to be paid the allowance after rejecting the Haddington Road Agreement, while other teachers unions who accepted the deal were not.

Paul Reid, assistant secretary in the Department of Expenditure and Reform and lead negotiator for the government on the Haddington Road Agreement, said: "It is not an a la carte agreement. We are now in a dispute process initiated by the ASTI."

But, in the short term at least, the Department of Education will continue to pay the S&S allowance because of the logistics of making the necessary payroll changes.

Yesterday, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said he was "going to have to proceed fairly cautiously" on the matter.

In a further reference to the ASTI position and their threat of industrial action, Mr Quinn said "the ball is in their court" and it was up to them to decide what was in their best interest.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny defended Mr Quinn' s warning to teachers that they had lost the protection of a job for life while they were outside the Haddington Road deal.

Mr Kenny said: "Far from being some form of schoolboy bully, Minister Quinn has merely pointed out the reality of the situation. This is the Haddington Road Agreement. It will not be renegotiated." He urged the ASTI to examine the costs to their members of remaining outside the agreement.

Irish Independent

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