The leadership of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) meet today to consider progress after three weeks of conciliation talks in their dispute with the Government.

A document setting out the outcome of discussions so far at the Teachers’ Conciliation Council (TCC) was circulated yesterday to unions and the two departments represented since the process began in early November.

The conciliation talks were agreed following the closure of over 500 secondary schools. ASTI staff staged two one-day strikes either side of the Halloween mid-term break, part of the union’s campaign for equal pay for those who started teaching since 2011.

As well as those strikes, the union had also deferred the more disruptive withdrawal of members from supervision and substitution duties. This had led to over 400 schools closing for one day, but with the prospect of indefinite closures, until the intervention of TCC chairwoman Anna Perry, who invited all sides into talks.

However, it is believed that few gains, if any, have been made by the ASTI over and above arrangements previously agreed with two other teacher unions, who have also been represented at the TCC talks. If that is the case, ASTI’s negotiators may have difficulty convincing the 23-member standing committee whether there is anything worth putting to a ballot of its 17,500 members.

However, it is also understood that teachers on the ground may be anxious to settle the matter. ASTI members at more than 500 second-level schools have already lost two or three days’ pay in a dispute that many feel they were led to understand would be resolved before their industrial actions began at the end of October.

For now, those two industrial actions remain deferred rather than cancelled and it will be up to the ASTI standing committee to decide the next stage in the process at today’s meeting.

Education Minister Richard Bruton declined yesterday to comment on the outcome of talks so far, but said he did not believe there was an end in sight to the dispute.

The ASTI also declined to comment, except to confirm that the details being circulated by Ms Perry would be discussed by the standing committee today. It is unclear if the union has agreed to put the contents of the document to ballot, or whether such a development would be for the standing committee or ASTI’s larger central executive committee to decide.

In a deal finalised in September with the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Teachers’ Union of Ireland, some pay increases were agreed by the Department of Education and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform for post-2011 appointees.

However, they still left them well behind the salary scales of colleagues. There were also concessions on the flexibility of how schools use the 33 extra ‘Croke Park’ hours teachers must work each year, work the ASTI had insisted they were no longer obliged to do from this school year since the lapse of a previous pay deal.

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