School closures averted as ASTI votes to accept public sector pay deal

 Pat King: Government must stick to commitments.

The danger of students at over 500 second-level schools being told to stay at home from mid-January has been averted after the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland voted to accept the Haddington Road Agreement.

The prospect of closures would have been almost inevitable if the ASTI rejected the deal but, in a major turnaround since members voted 63% against it in September, it became the last public service union to sign up and now ends its 11-week industrial action.

The 57% vote in favour came against the recommendation of ASTI’s 180-member central executive and follows Department of Education agreement last month to set up groups to consider concerns on teacher employment, the use of additional working hours, and junior cycle reform. Almost two-thirds of members voted, up from just over half three months ago.

The decision did not come without a warning from the union, which said strong action would be taken if those commitments are not met following a difficult decision by members in their third vote on a successor to the Croke Park deal.

“These ballots have taken place in the context of five years of education cutbacks, deteriorating terms and conditions for teachers, and Government decisions to breach the Croke Park agreement and unilaterally impose the draconian [financial emergency] legislation on ASTI members,” said general secretary Pat King.

The outcome prompted a one-line welcome from Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, but comes as a major relief in his department.

It had been preparing to send a notice to secondary schools tomorrow, in case the vote went the other way, to say all ASTI members were obliged to do supervision and substitution & work from Jan 17.

This would have resulted in a directive from the union not to do the work, if such a rule had not already issued on foot of a no vote, leading to Mr Quinn telling schools to close because student safety could not be guaranteed without supervision cover.

Ferdia Kelly, general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body which represents almost 400 Asti-staffed schools, welcomed the result and said it will work with all education partners to address issues arising from the Haddington Road Agreement. By accepting the deal, Asti members will not be paid for supervision and substitution work done since September but those not previously signed up for paid supervision can opt out in return for a pro-rata pay cut. Hundreds of members who started teaching since 2011 will benefit from the same improved salaries as other teacher union members, pay equivalent to the €1,700-a-year previously paid for supervision and substitution will be added to teacher salaries in two increments in 2016 and 2017. In line with all public servants, those earning over €65,000 will have HRA pay cuts restored from 2016 as a result of acceptance.


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