Monday 23 October 2017

Teachers could be first public servants to lose jobs

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn addresses the Annual Convention of ASTI at Whites Hotel, Wexford earlier this year
Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn addresses the Annual Convention of ASTI at Whites Hotel, Wexford earlier this year

TEACHERS in up to 30 schools face losing their jobs next year if the ASTI rejects the Haddington Road pay and productivity deal again.

It would be the first time that compulsory redundancies would be imposed, not only on teachers, but among permanent and pensionable staff in the public service.

The Department of Education has circulated a list of schools where teachers are at risk of redundancy if their union does not sign up to the agreement.

It covers up to 48 teaching posts in 29 named schools where the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) has members.

The list, circulated to union leaders and school management bodies, does not identify individual staff, and if redundancies were to happen it would be up to a school to decide who was surplus to requirements.

It will raise tensions as the dispute between ASTI and Government reaches a critical stage, with the union recommending another "no" vote in a ballot on the HRA, starting this week.

As the ASTI prepares for its third ballot, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has warned that the Government will take a hard line if the ASTI does not accept the deal.

Schools have already suffered disruption because of ASTI industrial action, and if the dispute continues, chaos is threatened in the 70pc of second-level schools where ASTI has members.

The department does a teacher 'stock-take' every year, but this year's list takes on a particular relevance because of the ASTI's resistance to the HRA.

The 17,000-member union is the only one not to have accepted the deal, and, for teachers, a downside of not signing up is the threat of redundancy if they become surplus to requirements in their school.

The list is provisional and subject to verification when the department completes processing of the annual September 30 returns from schools.

It is also subject to appeal by individual schools.

If redundancies were to take place, it would be before the start of the next school year, in September.

The teaching posts involved are what is known as "ex quota", which means they are above the official staffing allocation for the school based on its enrolments.

This generally happens where the number of pupils in a school has dropped to below the Department of Education-approved figure for the number of teachers.

It can arise where there has been a fall-off in enrolments to a school, or where the Department of Education has imposed a change in the pupil-teacher ratio.

A worsening of the pupil-teacher ratio in fee-paying schools in recent years may explain why this sector is strongly represented on the list.

While the deal has led to negative changes in terms and conditions, one of its benefits is continuing protection from compulsory redundancy.

Teachers employed on a permanent full-time basis or those with a Contract of Indefinite Duration are guaranteed redeployment if they become surplus to requirements in a school. But the scheme will not continue to operate for teachers if their union has not accepted the HRA.


ASTI general secretary Pat King confirmed that the union had received the list from the department "for schools which are over quota" and the union had informed the schools.

He added the union had told its members that in the event of rejecting the latest proposals, the department had stated that the redeployment arrangements and protections would not apply to ASTI members.

Mr King said the ASTI would consider any move to make teachers redundant as "totally unacceptable".

A department spokesperson confirmed it had circulated a "factual document setting out the over-quota position as of now. We have made it clear to unions and management that this might change, depending on information on enrolments based on the September 2013 returns. This information has been provided to union and management and we won't be commenting further".

Katherine Donnelly Education Editor

Irish Independent

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