Saturday 20 January 2018

ASTI teachers to get perks if industrial action is halted

Well over 1,000 ASTI members are reported to have left the union since January. (Stock picture)
Well over 1,000 ASTI members are reported to have left the union since January. (Stock picture)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Teachers who are members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) are being offered immediate benefits if they suspend their industrial action when they meet for a special convention on June 10.

Pay increases, a lifting of the freeze on increments, and access to promotional posts and permanent contracts are among the concessions that have been put on the table by the Department of Education in return for a suspension.

The concessions could even have been effective as early as this week, but efforts by union moderates, who were pushing for a truce to be called on Friday, were rejected by ASTI hardliners.

The department wrote to ASTI last week advising that all of the financial and other advantages of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) would be effective immediately from the date of even a temporary end to the dispute.

It is highly unusual to offer such a trade-off in return for a suspension of action.

But the department and many ASTI members are keen to see an end to the dispute.

However, the department has made clear that any pay and conditions restoration measures would stand to be reversed if a suspension was not sustained.

The ASTI governing body - which is made up of its 23-member Standing Committee - had the opportunity to end the action at its meeting on Friday.

But a move to do so was narrowly defeated by hardliners.

However, the outcome of the vote revealed a split among senior ASTI officers - and a chink in the leadership's stance against ending the long-running disputes over pay and junior cycle, which have caused considerable disruption to life in about 500 second-level schools.

Well over 1,000 ASTI members are reported to have left the union since January.

And union moderates have been seeking the earliest possible resolution, in order to stem that haemorrhage and to provide certainty before the school year ends, particularly for young teachers hoping for permanent contracts.

The Department of Education letter, setting out the terms of the trade-off, was sent to ASTI ahead of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Friday.

With confirmation of the department's position, ASTI moderates wanted the Standing Committee to exercise its authority to vote on the move to suspend action, rather than waiting for the convention taking place on June 10.

But the motion to suspend action - which would have been decided on a simple majority - never got to a vote.

ASTI president Ed Byrne first put a procedural motion on whether the meeting should vote on the main motion, resulting in 11 in favour - including some senior officers - and seven against.

However, as this procedural motion needed a two-thirds majority - which it missed by one - it was not carried, and so the main motion was not taken.

Irish Independent

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