A range of pay increases and access to permanent jobs for some teachers would kick in immediately if the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland decides to suspend a number of industrial actions, the Department of Education has said.
The details have been outlined ahead of a crucial, special, convention in two weeks’ time, reluctantly agreed to by Asti’s leaders in response to a petition from more than 1,500 of its 18,000 members. It will debate whether to suspend all industrial actions relating to the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) and Junior Certificate reform, pending the outcome of the public service pay talks and provided its members are treated equally to other public servants already signed up to that deal.
Asti was the only public service union not to accept the LRA, and the pay elements would not be retrospectively paid as they have not fulfilled all its requirements. They would instead apply from the June 10 date of the convention if industrial action is suspended but would be withdrawn if they were re-activated.
The department’s position makes clear that Asti would not have to wait until any possible acceptance of a successor pay deal before the previous benefits of LRA kicked in. It could be the autumn before the union’s members get to vote on any deal negotiated over the coming weeks because of balloting difficulties during school holidays.
At a number of meetings earlier this month, the department agreed to set out the position in the event that the special convention passes the motion to conditionally suspend industrial action. The union forced over 400 schools to close for three days last October and November but most of its pay-related actions were not reactivated since February when members narrowly rejected settlement proposals.
However, the Asti annual convention decided to moderate a previous industrial action by directing that members should not undertake any substitution duties encompassed by a disputed scheme, having temporarily also withdrawn from supervision work last November.
The department says it would expect that proposed substitution ban would also be encompassed by any decision to suspend industrial action if the motion is passed by the 400-plus convention delegates.
The union’s strategy on the pay issues came under particular focus at its annual convention at Easter, when the difficulties faced by non-permanent teachers getting contracts of indefinite duration (CIDs) were highlighted. Because of its continued non-acceptance of the LRA, Asti members must wait four years with rolling contracts in a school before being entitled to a CID, instead of the two years that applies to other teachers.
The department’s letter says that Asti members would again be eligible to a reduced qualifying period for a CID and other benefits to arise from the Ward report that examined problems facing non-permanent teachers.
Pay benefits would include the immediate payment of the first phase of new salary scales to teachers who entered the profession since 2012, which have been applied since last autumn to Teachers’ Union of Ireland and Irish National Teachers’ Organisation members.
The freeze on salary increments would be lifted and a salary hike of €1,000 would be applied, in line with the awarding of the rise to all other public servants in April, five months earlier than previously agreed.
The question of whether any future salary increments would still be applied in September each year, meaning Asti members could regain pay parity by September with TUI counterparts, would have to be considered in the event the union would subsequently accept any deal to emerge from the wider public pay talks.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved