Thursday 17 October 2019

ASTI sues Government over pay sanctions costing at least €15m

He was identified on CCTV and later arrested and charged. (stock photo)
He was identified on CCTV and later arrested and charged. (stock photo)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Secondary teachers' union ASTI is suing the Government for the full restoration of at least €15m lost to members because of a pay freeze two to three years ago.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland served summonses on the Department of Education and the Attorney General yesterday. Summonses were issued in the High Court on Thursday.

The Government used emergency legislation to impose pay sanctions on ASTI members in 2016-17 in response to their campaign of industrial action.

In that school year, ASTI was involved in disputes over pay equality for new entrant teachers and junior cycle reform.

Under the terms of recent public service pay agreements, any union engaging in industrial action is deemed to repudiate the deal and leaves itself open to sanctions.

But ASTI is furious its members were treated differently from nurses, who suffered no pay penalties when they took industrial action this year.

The nurses dispute formally ended on Thursday with their acceptance of a new deal, triggering the ASTI legal action demanding equal treatment.

The ASTI action in 2016-17 included three strike days and non-co-operation with certain duties. The union is not seeking pay restoration for the strike days, but does want a return of all other money lost.

The penalties took a number of forms, the hardest-hitting of which was a freeze on annual increments due to teachers.

Education Minister Joe McHugh recently put a figure of €15m on the losses, which, the Irish Independent understands, relates only to the increments freeze.

When the dispute ended on June 10 2017, the increments restarted, and June became the standard date for annual increments to apply. However, for teachers whose increment was originally due at an earlier time in the school year it can mean a considerable time lag and loss of money for that period.

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said the nurses' dispute was a "game changer" and, as a result, the union raised the bar to seek full restoration, backed up now with legal action.

Over the course of their industrial action in 2016-17, ASTI members were denied a number of other salary benefits, which were subsequently paid.

Irish Independent

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