Union boss sees teachers ‘heading for full strike’

The head of a secondary school teachers union has said he believes his members “are heading towards an all out strike”.

The president of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), Ed Byrne, said his 17,000 members will not accept the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) as they want “collegiality amongst teachers” where there is “equal pay” for “equal work”.

Its members are voting for industrial action “up to and including an all-out strike” if the pay of new entrants since 2011 is not put back on a par with longer-serving teachers.

Mr Byrne’s union is staying firm in its stance despite the Garda Representative Association (GRA) being the latest representative body to agree a deal with its relevant government department.

The other teaching unions, the TUI and INTO, have signed up to the LRA which brought in gradual increases in pay for such teachers. They also reached agreement around allowances.

Mr Byrne said “pre-conditions are commonplace” whenever the union engages with Department of Education officials and it does not want pre-conditions. “We just get a mantra, not a discussion,” Mr Byrne told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He said the union has taken “a principled stance” around “lesser paid teachers”.

Teachers in other unions are to receive an extra €796 a year, half the former allowance for doing supervision and substitution. Mr Byrne argued that despite such gains made by the other teaching unions, there remains a €110,000 difference between the €246,000 in allowances that an older teacher will earn over a 40-year career and a teacher hired since 2011.

Recently qualified teachers will also receive pay increases of up to €2,000 a year in a top-up deal agreed to by the TUI and INTO.

The ASTI is balloting for strike action over its equal pay stance. A second ballot is seeking withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties, a move which would force schools to shut because of lack of cover. The results of the two ballots are due on October 14.

While acknowledging that his union is most likely heading towards industrial action, Mr Byrne conceded this was “not good for education”.

Meanwhile, former education minister and Limerick TD Jan O’Sullivan told reporters in Limerick that the ASTI needed to re-evaluate their stance.

“It’s really time for the ASTI to recognise that the only way forward is to talk and get there and negotiate with the Department of Education.

“I think strike action would be a huge mistake for the ASTI. I would urge them to find a different path.

“The idea of strike action is completely out of proportion to the issues that other people have negotiated. There have been improved conditions for teachers. There has been progress,” she said.

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