Secondary teachers have decided not to resume school strikes before the summer in their campaign for equal pay.
However, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is to tell members not to do unpaid classroom substitution work after the summer holidays, as it continues a further dispute on the withholding of pay increases being awarded to other teachers.
It will also re-ballot its 18,000 members in the autumn to possibly strengthen its mandate for strikes if the issue of lesser-paid teachers is not addressed satisfactorily.
The union shut over 500 second-level schools twice last October and November after a ballot authorising action on the equal-pay issue.
The strikes and withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties were suspended in November, when the ASTI began talks with the Department of Education.
However, two elements of a motion that were defeated at ASTI’s annual convention yesterday could have seen strikes on the equal pay issue resumed before schools close at the end of May.
One possibility was the calling of a number of strikes next month to force the issue on equal pay in forthcoming public pay negotiations; the other suggested a specific one-day strike on the issue on May 16.
The convention delegates instead decided on a protest at Leinster House on the day the talks commence.
It also backed balloting members again to refresh the mandate for strikes if the lesser-paid teachers issue is not resolved to their satisfaction by the new school year, a position ASTI president Ed Byrne believes could help them resolve the question of equal pay for equal work at the public pay talks.
The withdrawal from some substitution work in September might not force a resolution to the ASTI’s dispute over the withholding of pay increases from its members associated with the work.
Teachers’ Union of Ireland members who do this work are being paid almost €800 extra a year and are due a similar raise next year.
However, Mr Byrne said the lead-in time to the substitution action means the Department of Education and schools now have no excuse not to have necessary arrangements in place.
Health and safety concerns were cited when hundreds of schools closed over ASTI’s withdrawal from supervision and substitution work in November, even though members were available to teach students.
“If people are seriously talking about putting contingency plans in place, they can’t sit on their hands for the next couple of months and say that’s not good enough in September,” said Mr Byrne.
The motions were debated behind closed doors after a private session on Wednesday to discuss frustrations by some delegates over the lack of a clear strategy on pay and junior cycle reform campaigns.
‘It’s wrong, and it’s time for it to end’
David Waters is a teacher in Dublin who finally, after qualifying five years ago, now has full-time hours.
But speaking on the final day of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland conference in Cork yesterday, he admitted that it has been a tough five years to reach this point.
“When I started in 2012, I started on a two-hour contract, then I went to a six, then 17, then 20-hour contract and eventually, now, I’m on full hours,” Mr Waters said.
“But it took me five years to do that.
“It’s very tough on a zero hour contract. I live in Dublin, trying to pay rent is hard, or even getting a loan because you can’t because of your irregular work and lack of steady income. You’re paralysed,” he said.
“Even now with full-time work, getting a mortgage is nearly impossible because even at this stage, where I have been working five years, I haven’t even reached the starting point I would have been at had I started in 2010.
“It’s unjust. You can’t help but get a bit angry about it. You work with people on the same corridor, doing the same subject, and they’re getting paid nearly €8,000 more than you.
“There’s something so immoral there,” he said.
Mr Waters is pleased with the motion passed by the TUI on Wednesday, which calls for a ballot for industrial action in October if the pay parity for newer entrants is not secured by September.
“When you go back to when the cuts happened, the country was in bits, and everyone would agree that, but they targeted one particular section.
“The new entrants has to bear an unequal amount of that burden.
“It’s wrong, and unjust and it’s time for it to end. It’s been six years now.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved