ASTI Conference: Teacher union staff may strike in dispute over ‘respect’ issues

The leaders of a secondary teachers’ union were urged to engage in efforts to resolve a dispute with their office staff, who are being asked to consider striking to get their employers to the table.

Unions representing around 25 Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland officials and administrative staff have sought to enter discussions.

The dispute revolves around issues they say relate to a culture of disrespect from elected officers and claims that agreed structures on who staff are directly answerable to are not being followed.

But a conciliation conference organised last month under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, in line with a protocol agreed when staff relations were the subject of dispute over a decade ago, was not attended by the employer side.

A ballot is now being organised by Siptu, which represents most ASTI staff, and the National Union of Journalists. 

It could lead to industrial action up to strike action to try and force ASTI management to sit down and iron out the dispute with their staff’s unions.

The issue was raised in a debate on the pressure on teachers who do not have permanent posts to do unpaid duties. 

In some schools, it was said that they are taking on those duties despite an ASTI directive not to do so if the work was previously done by a holder of a paid post of responsibility.

Elaine Devlin, of the Dundalk branch, said she hoped the union’s head office staff are not being treated the same way as members in schools.

She said she hoped the ASTI general secretary and president would find a way to attend conciliation or any other efforts to resolve the dispute through the Workplace Relations Commission.

“The excellent staff in our head office work so hard for us and yet are terribly unhappy… from anecdotal accounts and newspaper accounts. The staff in our schools are finding it so difficult to manage and I would hope the staff in our head office are finding it a little easier,” Ms Devlin said.

An ASTI spokesperson provided a statement in response to a query from the Irish Examiner.

“We endeavour to have good relations with staff. These issues are confidential and therefore any comment would be inappropriate,” it said.

Siptu industrial organiser Peadar Nolan said ongoing industrial relations problems are causing serious concerns for its members working for ASTI.

“We have made several attempts to convince the employer to go to the WRC in line with our agreed industrial relations protocol,” he said.

“We are ready to go to the WRC but it is up to the employer now to confirm they will engage in the WRC in a constructive manner, otherwise we will be left with no option but to proceed to the next step.”

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