Tuesday 24 October 2017

ASTI vote 'no' to package on pay restoration and junior cert reform, re-igniting threat of strikes

(Stock image)
(Stock image)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

ASTI members have rejected the latest package on pay and junior cert reform, re-igniting the threat of disruption in two in three second-level schools

Members of the secondary teachers’ union  have voted 52.5 to 47.5 against a document that emerged in discussions before Christmas.

The majority took the advice of the union’s 180-member central executive committee, which urged rejection.

Some 75pc of ASTI members voted in the ballot and ASTI’s 23-member Standing Committee will  meet next week to consider the outcome.

It raises the prospect of a return to industrial action in about 500 schools, where the 18,000-strong Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) has members, although there are no details on that yet.

It also leaves a question-mark over the fate of about 35,000 third year pupils now at risk of losing 10pc of the marks for their English exam this year because the union is not co-operating with junior cycle changes.

Pupils in schools where the other second-level teacher’s union, the TUI represent teachers,  have done a  written school-based assessment for which up to 10pc of  marks are being awarded.

The result will come as a big blow to parents, pupils, school authorities and Education Minister Richard Bruton.

Even without any further work stoppages, action in place by the ASTI is already disrupting school life, such as curtailing the number of parent-teacher and planning meeting that can take place.

The ASTI is isolated as the only public service union that has not signed up for the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) and other pay deals that flowed from it.

It means its members are not benefiting from a range of post-austerity pay restoration measures and improvements in conditions being enjoyed by other teachers.

These include pay rises, protection against redundancy in the event of school closures, amalgamations or a fall in pupil numbers, and quicker access to full-time posts for newly-qualified teachers.

All other public service unions have moved on from the LRA and are focused on its successor. Negotiations on a successor will begin immediately after the Government’s  Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) makes its initial report in April.

ASTI president Ed Byrne said there was no immediate threat of renewing industrial action unless the Department of Education moves to threaten redundancies, teachers who become surplus to requirements arising from a school closure, amalgamation or a drop in pupil numbers in a school.

A number of ASTI teachers become "surplus" in schools every year and because of the union’s rejection of the pay deal, the Department is withdrawing the  usual protection of guaranteed redeployment for these teachers .

Decisions on teacher numbers  for next September are being made in coming weeks so ASTI members at risk of redundancy will know their fate soon.

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