Union threatens action if 'surplus' teachers are fired
A dispute that could close secondary schools will "come to a head quite quickly" if the Government sacks teachers who are surplus to requirement, a union has warned.
But the Department of Education refused to confirm whether it plans to use emergency legislation to make members of the ASTI redundant for refusing to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
The union is waiting for the department's next move after letters were sent to 60 schools informing them that they have too many teachers.
"Surplus" members of the union are under threat of redundancy, as a penalty for refusing to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Every year, the Department of Education identifies surplus teachers and they are normally offered jobs at schools where their skills are in demand, within a 50km radius of their home or their current school.
ASTI president Ed Byrne claimed the dispute "could come to a head quite quickly" ahead of the next school year in September. He repeated a threat that the union would immediately ballot its members for industrial action if the Government makes them redundant.
He said the teachers involved may be surplus in their schools but they are not surplus to the system.
The ASTI is the only union still outside the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
Teachers' increments have already been frozen after they stopped working 33 extra hours per year last July and they cannot apply for promotional posts.
Workers who signed up are getting pay rises, although they continue to accept cuts imposed under previous deals, including working extra hours for free.
The rest of the unions representing public sector workers are already preparing for talks in May on a deal to succeed the current agreement.
In a response to a query from the Irish Independent, the Department of Education confirmed that ASTI members do not have the protection from compulsory redundancy that other public servants have.
But it would not say if it planned to make them redundant. It said the purpose of the redeployment scheme for school surpluses is to deal with situations where teacher surpluses arise without the need for compulsory redundancies.
"The process of identifying staff surpluses takes place in the first half of each year and takes effect from the start of the following school year," said a spokesperson. "The process operates and deals with any surplus for the following school year."
He said it was too early to say what the final surplus figure might be as factors including retirements, career breaks and job sharing had to be taken into account.
"Given that Budgets 2016 and 2017 did not negatively impact on teacher allocations, it would not be surprising that the level of redeployment would be lower than in recent years," he said.