Tuesday 22 October 2019

Teachers reject new pay deal

Delegates at the SIPTU National Executive Council meeting in Liberty Hall
Delegates at the SIPTU National Executive Council meeting in Liberty Hall

Katherine Donnelly, Paul Melia and Conor Kane

SECONDARY schools face the prospect of reopening in chaos in September after teacher leaders rejected the latest pay and productivity deal.

The country's biggest trade unions, SIPTU and IMPACT, which represent more than 120,000 public sector workers, recommended acceptance of the deal.

But the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) are on a collision course with the Government after refusing even to ask their members to ballot on the new proposals.

The Government has warned that it will begin to impose mandatory cuts in the pay of public sector workers in unions that reject the deal on offer.

Legislation published yesterday, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013, will allow for the pay and pension cuts to take effect.

The new deal, the successor to the Croke Park Agreement, was called the Haddington Road Agreement, after the address of the Labour Relations Commission office in Dublin, where the proposals were negotiated.

The two teaching unions issued a joint statement, saying there were not sufficient changes to Croke Park II – which was rejected by over eight in 10 of their members – to put the Haddington Road Agreement to a vote.

As a result, their opposition stands and if the Government goes ahead with threatened pay cuts on July 1, it will trigger the unions' mandates for industrial action when the schools return in September.

Union leaders are considering a range of different forms of industrial action, from refusing to meet parents outside school hours to strikes, but there is no threat to the Leaving and Junior Cert exams.

The decisions taken at meetings of the ASTI and TUI executives yesterday are a major blow to the Government's hopes of wrapping up the controversy over its plans to cut public sector payroll costs by €300m this year and €1bn by 2015.

The two second-level unions are at odds with the position of the leadership of their primary-school counterparts in the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), which is putting the proposals out to ballot with a recommendation to accept.

The difference in the position of unions at primary and second-levels raises the messy prospect of teachers in the different sectors being employed on different terms and conditions after July 1.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said the key reasons behind the emphatic rejection of Croke Park II by teachers remained part of the Haddington Road Agreement, including the abolition of payment for supervision and substitution work and cuts to pay.

TUI general secretary, John MacGabhann said that notwithstanding some welcome measures in regard to casualisation, the proposals did not go far enough in addressing the inequalities suffered by recent entrants to the teaching and lecturing professions.

However, SIPTU and IMPACT said the agreement would offer protection against job losses and guarantee that pay would be protected for the next three years.

PENSIONS

Details of the pay agreement show that unions negotiated a raft of concessions from the Government. In a major concession to unions, increments will continue to be paid across most grades, but with longer periods between payments.

The main points include:

* An increase in the working week, with two additional hours for those working 35 hours.

* Cuts in overtime for higher earners and fewer holidays.

* Premium payments will remain for Sunday working, but the number of staff rostered to work those days will fall.

* Pay cuts for high earners will be introduced, ranging from 5.5pc for anyone earning €65,000 to €80,000; 8pc between €80,000 and €150,000, 9pc for €150,000 and€180,000 and 10pc over €185,000.

* The pay cuts will apply to previously exempt staff in the National Treasury Management Agency and Railway Procurement Agency and to politicians.

* Cuts in pensions will also be introduced, with higher cuts for those who retired prior to February last year.

While no compulsory redundancies or further pay cuts are planned, the Government can revisit the agreement if economic circumstances change.

Irish Independent

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