Thursday 21 November 2019

Grassroots effort to end ASTI industrial action is resisted by union leaders

ASTI president Ed Byrne. Photo: Arthur Carron
ASTI president Ed Byrne. Photo: Arthur Carron
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A grassroots move within the ASTI to bring an end to industrial action in schools is being resisted by the union leadership.

It is understood that about 500 members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) have so far signed a petition to support a special convention to consider a suspension of all action, pending the outcome of the upcoming round of pay negotiations involving all public service unions.

While ASTI industrial action has not closed schools since November, an ongoing campaign of resistance is causing considerable disruption in about 500 second-level schools.

The move to seek the convention started last Sunday, following some robust debate at the ASTI annual conference last week, where a significant number of delegates challenged the union's current dispute strategy.

The growing concern of rank-and-file members was evident at the conference, with one delegate describing the ASTI as a "hermit kingdom" and "the North Korea of the trade union movement".

Almost 450 ASTI members resigned in the first three months of the year, and the conference heard that the figure would continue to increase.

The ASTI is the only union not to have accepted the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), which means members are not benefiting from pay restoration measures and earlier access to permanent contracts for young teachers. ASTI members are also refusing to co-operate with junior cycle reforms.

The petition that has been circulating since Sunday seeking support for the convention was proposed by former ASTI president Brendan Broderick and seconded by long-standing activist Noel Buckley.

The petition has sparked a feisty response from ASTI president Ed Byrne, who posted a notice on the union website describing it as an "unofficial letter" which was not approved by the officers of the union.

Mr Byrne stated "the letter is undoubtedly misleading" and pointed out the majority of delegates voted not to allow the same motion on to the floor last week, and that it had also been defeated at recent meetings of the union's executive committee and its 23-member governing body, the Standing Committee.

Mr Byrne added: "The motion attempts to overturn a national ballot where a majority of 5pc on a 75pc turnout rejected the November proposals... I believe that the attempt, albeit within the rules, to bring the motion to a Special Convention is a denial of the sovereign right of the members in a ballot."

Irish Independent

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