The restoration of equal pay for younger teachers would be required if an imminent ballot for possible strikes at hundreds of second-level schools is to be called off, a union leader has said.
Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) president Ed Byrne said the union is obliged by a motion at its annual conference in March to call a vote of its 17,000 members on industrial action if the pay of new entrants since 2011 is not put back on par with longer-serving members by the end of the month.
Although the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), to which other teacher unions have signed up, commits the Government to gradual increases in those recent entrants to teaching, and talks which are ongoing on their allowances, Mr Byrne said that does not satisfy his members’ demands.
The union met Department of Education officials last month and more talks are expected before schools reopen later this month. However, there is little hope of a breakthrough and the ballot being called off, as the Government insists the issue can only be dealt with via mechanisms in place for unions inside the LRA.
“One of the problems we have is the lack of good faith, particularly from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,” said Mr Byrne. “If they were to turn around and say, ‘Yes we will reverse the cuts to new entrants’ that would allow us reconsider.”
The threat of potential closure of ASTI-staffed schools early in the new term is doubled due to a separate ballot by the union which is also looming. It is expected to take place shortly after teachers return to class at the end of August because of the recent Government decision to press ahead with penalties on ASTI members for being outside the LRA.
The application of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Fempi) laws to ASTI members was notified last month after the Government extended the clauses put in place at the height of the recession for unions outside collective pay deals.
It means the ASTI will not receive the improvements for recent entrants available to Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and Teachers’ Union of Ireland members, or under further discussion with their representatives. In addition, the restoration of salary increments and staggered pay increases to compensate for the loss of a previous payment for supervision and substitution work will also be foregone.
The application of Fempi measures was prompted by the ASTI telling members in June to no longer work an extra 33 hours a year as previously done under the Croke Park Agreement. As such, the Government says they repudiated the LRA.
The Department of Education said it told the ASTI a month ago that it would suspend implementing those measures if the union suspended the Croke Park hours directive, which could lead to schools taking half days to facilitate meetings otherwise held using those extra hours.
“The ASTI standing committee decided not to accept this suggestion and the union is proceeding with their withdrawal from the Croke Park hours, which will lead to disruption in schools in the new school year,” a spokesperson said.
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