Monday 26 September 2016

Parents deserve to know views of the 11,000 ASTI members who did not vote

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan

One of the biggest questions to be asked in the wake of the ASTI ballot is where were the almost two in three members of the union who did not bother to vote.

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The turnout of 38pc means that the views of more than 11,000 of the 18,000 ASTI members are not represented. With a No vote of 55pc, the views of some 3,762 teachers carried the day.

It was a democratic decision, but the 11,000-plus non-voters represent a huge silent majority, one that is not acceptable when the education of some 350,000 teenagers who populate second-level schools in any one year is at stake.

Perhaps many of those teachers would have voted No for their own very good reasons, in which case the outcome would be much more decisive and one that would be hard, if not impossible, for the authorities to ignore.

Or are there among the 11,000 a big proportion who support the changes, but simply didn't trouble themselves to express that view. And, if not, why not?

Were there a large number of 'don't knows'?

If so, were they confused by a decision of the ASTI executive committee not to issue a recommendation about how to vote, notwithstanding the fact that the leaderships of the two second-level teacher unions signed off on the proposals in July, after a long, hard-fought campaign?

In contrast, some 60pc of TUI members exercised their franchise, with 69pc voting Yes. The turnout and margin between the Yes and No camps provide a much more robust view of how members of the TUI feel about the changes.

ASTI president Máire Ní Chiarba explained that the No outcome was a consequence of a lack of clarity about what would be involved and, in an era of education cuts and increased workload, a lack of faith in the Government. That may explain the No voters, but it tells us nothing of the views of the missing 11,000.

The No result was accompanied by a 70pc-30pc vote in favour of re-engaging in industrial action.

Whether that takes the form of refusal to participate in training or in a worst case scenario pickets that would close schools, the pupils and their parents deserve to know why, and from as many members of the ASTI as possible.

Irish Independent

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