Sunday 26 January 2020

Croke Park II: All that's changed is the name

Barry Hazel

Simply calling something a new name does not make it a different thing. Croke Park II has been slightly tweaked, that's all. Calling it Haddington Road does not make it a new agreement. The only difference is that the reversal of some of the pay cuts is promised in the next few years.

A political promise is not worth the bond holder's paper it's written on. Oh, my apologies for they were paid in full despite many of the present Government promising to burn them. I'm still looking for those fires. Perhaps they are in Frankfurt?!

The ASTI has already held two ballots around this deal at a cost of €65,000 each. The first rejected the deal by 84pc and a second voted 87pc for industrial action in the event of imposed pay cuts. A third ballot would only be necessary if the pay cuts were off the agenda.

I have yet to meet any teacher jumping up and down looking for another ballot. But the rejection by ASTI members was not simply due to pay cuts but also other demands the Government insisted on making.

Few of us thought that besides being asked to do unpaid supervision and substitution, we would be asked to do more – 43 hours instead of the current 37 . If that was not bad enough, the Haddington Road tweaking increased my weekly maximum availability per week from 90 minutes to 180 minutes!

The bizarre thing is that 40pc of teachers are roughly outside the scheme at present. They would now be forced back in creating thousands more available teachers.

So why more hours required? Is there a flu pandemic coming down the tracks?

Before this threat of compulsory supervision teachers had already given up time by stepping into management posts that were previously paid for before the embargo on filling posts of responsibility, such as Year Head. Effectively this means that a whole generation of teachers have been told they will never be promoted.

The Junior Cert (JC) reforms are another elephant in the room that has been largely ignored in analysis of the rejection. It's not part of the agreement but it's in the forefront of every teacher's mind.

They can see the JC reform train wildly careering down the poorly maintained tracks fuelled by a minister's ego. Basically, students are not advancing sufficiently within the system so it's all being dismantled.

Recent endeavours at reform, such as Project Maths and the national literacy strategy, have not inspired confidence. One school waited four months for in-service for the literacy strategy only to be given an in-service on how to set up a group they were already running.

There is no need for another ballot on an agreement that has hardly changed and ignores some pretty big unfed elephants.

Barry Hazel is a member of the central executive committee of the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI)

Irish Independent

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