'Pay cut for time off' proposal to end secondary schools dispute
AN END is finally in sight to the dispute that has disrupted life in two-thirds of second-level schools for more than a month.
A draft agreement emerged after talks between the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Department of Education officials.
Proposals aimed at resolving the row include a key new provision allowing teachers to opt out of supervision and substitution work in exchange for a pay cut.
It also includes new commitments in relation to the employment conditions of part-time and temporary teachers, reform of the Junior Cycle, middle-management posts, and the use of 33 extra working hours a year conceded under the previous Croke Park Agreement.
The ASTI executive meets on Saturday to decide whether to put the deal to a ballot, and if so, whether to make any recommendation as to how members should vote.
However, the union's powerful standing committee yesterday recommended that the union's 17,000 members vote on the new package.
If Saturday's meeting supports a vote, it will also have to decide whether the current industrial action should be called off while the ballot takes place.
The ASTI is the only union not to have signed up to the Haddington Road Agreement. Since October 2 its members have engaged in industrial action, including a ban on meetings outside school hours.
This move has forced the cancellation of a number of school events, including parent-teacher meetings. It has even meant some schools had to close in order to allow them to proceed.
National Parents Council Post Primary president Don Myers welcomed the new proposals.
Mr Myers said the proposals were a "step in the right direction" and he hoped that there would be no further disruption to schools.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn also said he hoped that they would bring about a resolution.
The proposals cover the range of issues raised by the ASTI as it rejected the Haddington Road Agreement on pay cuts and productivity in the public service. Changes and clarifications agreed with the ASTI will also be extended to the other teachers' unions, the Teachers' Union of Ireland and the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, where relevant.
In a key change to Haddington Road, teachers who were not doing supervision and substitution work in 2012/13 may continue to opt out.
However, those who make that choice face a pay cut of up to €1,769, equivalent to the allowance paid for those duties.
The draft agreement also includes a new commitment in relation to continuing to fill middle-management posts in schools where vacancies fall below a certain level.
A review on the use of the extra 33 working hours a year conceded by teachers under the Croke Park deal will start early in 2014.
This follows concerns expressed by teachers that the extra hours were not always put to the best use.
The talks with the ASTI also firmed up the promise of a review on the thorny issue of casualisation among young teachers.
An expert group to review the problem will be established in January, while new arrangements for a panel for fixed-term and part-time teachers to fill vacancies that arise, will be introduced next September.
The department has also agreed to set up a working party on Junior Cert examinations reform, which has been the source of significant concern among teachers.