Wednesday 18 September 2019

Secondary teachers' union suing Government over pay sanctions during junior cycle reform dispute

Education Minister Joe McHugh with ASTI President Breda Lynch Photo: Frank McGrath
Education Minister Joe McHugh with ASTI President Breda Lynch Photo: Frank McGrath
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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

THE secondary teachers’ union, ASTI, is suing the Government over pay sanctions imposed during its dispute over junior cycle reform.

The union is demanding full restoration of all losses suffered by its members when the Government imposed a pay freeze because of ongoing industrial action

The total losses suffered are estimated at least €15m, and mounting by the day.

The Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland today served summons on the Department of Education and the Attorney General.

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The summons were issued in the High Court yesterday.

The ASTI is furious that its members were treated differently than nurses, who suffered no pay penalties when they took industrial action earlier this year.

The nurses dispute formally ended yesterday with acceptance of a new pay deal, triggering the ASTI move in the courts.

The Government used emergency legislation, known as FEMPI, to impose a pay freeze on ASTI members in 2016-17, on the basis that their industrial action was a repudiation of the public service pay agreement.

The action included three strike days in autumn 2016 and non-co-operation with certain duties for the 2016-17 school year.

The union is not seeking pay restoration for the strike days, but it does want a return of all the other money lost.

One of the sanctions was a freeze on increments. When the dispute ended on June 10 2017, the increments restarted, with immediate effect.

June then became the standard date for annual increments to apply. However, for teachers whose increment was originally due at a different time of the year, perhaps September, it can mean a considerable time lag and the loss of the money for that period.

Since the dispute ended, the ASTI had been seeking the restoration of the original increment dates for members, but as a result of the nurses dispute, raised the bar to seek retrospection, backed up now with legal proceedings.

The increments freeze was not the only sanction, but it is the one that hit hardest because of its ongoing impact.

Other penalties included non-payment of a moiety for supervision and substitution, and the withdrawal of more favourable arrangements around contracts.

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