Haddington Road only way out of chaos
Asti had a chance to negotiate but bottled it and must accept the consequences, writes Colm O'Rourke
The latest Exocet from the Asti has left most partners in the education process confused and probably bemused as well. It has lined its troops up for battle without any fallback position and argues that its dispute is not going to hurt parents, students or teachers. That is, of course, the first bogus argument: if parent-teacher meetings have to move back into school time then it will immediately impact on teaching time and cause great inconvenience for parents – both in minding students who are at home, and possibly getting off work during the day to attend these meetings.
Of even more immediate concern are open nights for next year's intake of students into secondary schools. These meetings are generally held over the next couple of months and many in the next couple of weeks. These now have to be abandoned as the Asti wants to singlehandedly break an agreement which has been accepted, however narrowly and with little enthusiasm by all others in the public sector.
This dispute could escalate very quickly once the Department of Education withdraws supervision and substitution payments to Asti members, something which will have to happen fairly quickly. This anomaly has arisen as those who have accepted the agreement will lose this payment while those in dispute hold on to it, at least for the moment. You can imagine the friction in community-type schools where Asti members are paid to do work which TUI members will have to do for nothing. And while Asti members walk out at four o'clock and head home, those who have accepted Haddington Road have to stay on and work longer. That cannot last, and if supervision and substitution payments are withdrawn – as they will have to be – and there is no supervision and substitution, then the reality is that many schools will have to close. That is the situation which will unfold soon. Does the Asti think that won't affect all the students?