ASTI to decide whether to ballot on deal

The largest decision-making body of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) will decide on Saturday whether to ballot members on a deal hammered out in its pay dispute over the last three weeks.

Its 23-member standing committee met all day yesterday to consider the documents finalised this week on pay and conditions issues and junior cycle reform after three weeks of talks at the Teachers’ Conciliation Council. However, it made no decisions ahead of a meeting called for Saturday of the union’s 180-member central executive council (CEC).

During the talks, the ASTI deferred a series of one-day strikes and the withdrawal from supervision duties by its 17,500 members, actions which forced around 500 schools to close for three days in the past month.

The two eight-page documents will now be considered by the CEC, which may decide to ballot members whether to accept the deal, and if so whether or not to recommend accepting it. But it could also reject the proposals and extend industrial action if the deal is not seen to sufficiently address various concerns.

While the deal offers little beyond what was already on the table resulting from a deal agreed by Education Minister Richard Bruton’s officials with two other teacher unions in September, it is described as the final position from the Government side.

There are no additional moves, for example, to claw back equal pay to teachers who joined the profession since 2011. Instead, it said, this issue may be dealt with by the wider talks to be held under the Public Service Pay Commission and within the terms of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which the ASTI rejected last year.

There is also no additional flexibility on the use of disputed ‘Croke Park’ hours, 33 extra hours each year which the ASTI stopped doing this school year. The document offers only the increased freedom around the use of eight of those hours this school year and 10 hours a year from 2017, which was already agreed with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI).

It was the ASTI’s refusal to do these 33 hours that prompted the department to withhold salary increases from its members. That, in turn, triggered the withdrawal from supervision and substitution work before the conciliation talks started, which had threatened to close over half all second-level schools indefinitely.

One of the few pay concessions agreed is that teachers who miss part of a school day due to illness would no longer be marked absent for the full day.

On junior cycle reforms, the deadline for classroom-based assessment in English for third-year students will be reset so those taught by ASTI members would not potentially lose out on 10% of marks in Junior Certificate English for a related task.

The assessment was due to have been undertaken in schools next week but ASTI members have not been trained on it or students prepared for the work due to separate industrial action. If ASTI accept the new proposals, ‘catch-up’ training would be provided for its members.

The document includes Department of Education assurances it does not plan to phase out final written Junior Certificate exams set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC), but it has stood firm on other issues like moving to common-level exams in all subjects except English, Irish and maths.

It also states that oral tests for Junior Certificate language subjects would not be carried out by the SEC, despite ASTI and TUI requests that they would.


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