Cabinet warning escalates row with teachers

The Government is on a collision course with 16,000 secondary school teachers, after it told the Association of Secondary Teachers (ASTI) they are obliged to undertake unpaid substitution and supervision duties from next month.

After yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, a statement was issued by the Department of Education warning teachers that even if they reject the Haddington Road Agreement again, these duties, now worth €1,700 per year to a teacher, will from mid-January be “mandatory and unpaid” in line with the latest public sector pay agreement.

The Government’s decision to use its emergency financial legislation to force the teachers to undertake this work marks a significant ramping up of the Government position, as it was unclear up to now who else would provide this role. During previous industrial disputes, the department paid non-teachers to do the work for health and safety reasons.

Responding to the directive, ASTI general secretary Pat King issued a stark warning to the department.

“This move to unilaterally change teachers’ terms and conditions will lead to a serious escalation of the current industrial dispute in schools.

“The ASTI has already stated that if the Government uses the emergency legislation again to worsen teachers’ terms and conditions, we will respond with strong trade union action,” he said.

The ASTI ballot is now under way, as is the industrial action that has disrupted students and parents for two months, with parent-teacher meetings being held in school hours, because of a ban on members attending after-school meetings.

And although officials have secured additional commitments from Mr Quinn’s department to examine concerns over junior cycle reform and teacher employment, the union’s central executive council is recommending another ‘no’ vote.

Earlier this week, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn repeated the possibility of ASTI secondary school teachers being made redundant if their union rejects the Haddington Road Agreement for a second time.

The warning was previously issued by Mr Quinn in the Dáil after the first ASTI vote on the deal in September.

The country’s bigger secondary teachers’ union, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI), voted to accept the deal earlier this year.

Yesterday’s Department of Education statement also stated: “The Haddington Road Agreement provides for the integration of the supervision and substitution allowance into the pay scale of teachers in 2017 and 2018.

“In addition, this agreement removes the freeze on increments currently applying to ASTI members and provides for an improved pay scale for new entrant teachers, together with a range of measures designed to improve the employment prospects of young teachers and to diminish casualisation.”


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