Friday 23 February 2018

Chaos in schools averted as ASTI accepts pay deal

Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D
Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn T.D

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

THE threat of New Year chaos in hundreds of second-level schools has been averted after rank-and-file teachers decided the time had come to accept the Haddington Road pay and productivity deal.

The 17,000-member Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) accepted the agreement 57pc-43pc in their third ballot on the matter, despite a recommendation from their executive to reject it.

It is quite a turnaround from the previous ballot in September, when over 60pc voted against the agreement and in favour of industrial action.

In a sign of the strength of feeling among ASTI members, on both sides, more voted on this occasion, with a poll of 64pc compared with 55pc for the September ballot.

The "yes" vote shows they were swayed by the Government hard line in recent weeks, including a warning that another rejection could see ASTI members being removed from the payroll from Friday January 17.

The Government had set January 17 as the deadline for all ASTI members to carry out supervision and substitution duties -- and for no pay -- in accordance with the terms of Haddington Road.

In the absence of agreement, the Government was prepared to use new powers available to it, under the FEMPI legislation, to impose the changes in working terms and conditions, setting the scene for a nasty stand-off.

Many ASTI members voting in recent weeks would also have been concerned that failure to sign up to Haddington Road now would leave them vulnerable to compulsory redundancy next year.

The Department of Education recently circulated a list identifying up to 48 teaching posts in 29 schools, which are now surplus to requirements, and which, without the protection against compulsory redundancy offered by Haddington Road, would have led to teachers losing their jobs.

The ASTI was the only public service union not to accept the deal and so, had the dispute continued, its members would have felt increasingly isolated.

Members of the two other teacher unions, the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) have been working under the new terms and conditions since September.

While compulsory and unpaid supervision and substitution work is a price teachers are paying for Haddington Road, the agreement also includes benefits in both pay and conditions particularly for young teachers.

Newly qualified teachers in the ASTI can now look forward to an immediate pay rise of about €2,000-€3000, while ASTI members will also receive increments due in line with the terms of the deal.

Irish Independent

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