A KEY aim of the Croke Park Agreement is to achieve significant savings to public sector pay costs over a four-year period.
Under the terms of the agreement, eligible public service workers who retire before the end of February 2012 will have their pensions calculated on their 2009 salary -- that is, the salary they had before the imposition in January 2010 of the public sector pay cut.
Those who go for this option will be subject to the 4pc cut in public sector pensions announced in Budget 2011. All the same, the offer is not unattractive and is expected to be popular, given that the average public service worker has taken a 20 to 25pc pay reduction within the past three years due, in part, to the public sector pay cut and pension levy.
The ASTI is calling for an extension to the deadline of the Croke Park Agreement retirement offer. We are doing this because the current deadline of February 29, 2012, falls at a crucial time in the school year; this is particularly so for our Junior and Leaving Cert students. February is when schools move from fourth gear into fifth.
In February 2012, more than 100,000 Junior and Leaving Cert students will be busily finalising project work for a wide range of subjects. They will also be preparing for their oral, aural and practical exams which take place from March. This work follows months of preparation and the atmosphere of schools will become most industrious as deadlines loom. As any parent whose child or children have gone through this knows, it's not a good time for upheaval or change.
No one knows yet how many teachers will retire in February 2012. The Department of Education doesn't know, the schools don't know. In some cases -- because of the dilemma facing them -- individual teachers don't yet know. No teacher wants to leave their students in the run-up to their exams.
What will happen if a significant number of teachers retire next February? Firstly, schools will have to recruit during the school year, rather than the summer break -- the usual recruitment period. There is therefore a risk that some teaching posts will not be filled immediately. Many exam students will experience the loss of a teacher who has been with them for almost two years (or more), and who has brought them three quarters of the way through the Junior or Leaving Cert journey in a particular subject.
The students will be used to specific learning methodologies and will have developed a close working relationship with the teacher. Some students may experience the loss of teachers across a range of subject areas at this crucial time.
Vacant positions will most likely be filled by teachers already in the system -- that is, temporary and substitute teachers looking for work. This means the upheaval will not be confined to students whose teachers are retiring, but will also affect the students of temporary and substitute teachers. The impact of the February 2012 deadline will have a domino effect.
The ASTI is not asking that teachers be treated as special or given any advantage that has not been afforded to other public sector workers. We are simply asking that common sense prevail and that students are not exposed to unnecessary stress at an important time in their lives.
Brendan Broderick is ASTI president and a teacher at Templeogue College, Dublin