Tuesday 12 December 2017

Grassroots move within ASTI to bring end to industrial action in schools resisted by union leadership

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 concerns 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 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 benefitting 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.  They also made unsuccessful attempts at the conference to have a debate on suspension industrial action.

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

Mr Byrne states that “the letter is undoubtedly misleading” and  points out that the  majority of conference 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 adds: “The motion attempts to overturn a national ballot where a majority of 5pc on a 75pc turnout rejected the November proposals. This confirmed earlier rejections of Junior Cycle reform and the Lansdowne Road Agreement. 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.

“For these reasons I urge you to respect the mandate of the ballot. Otherwise, how can we ever again accept or reject an offer in a ballot of members

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