The management of the union had been asked to answer a number of claims made on behalf of 24 staff at its head offices in Dublin, represented by SIPTU and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
They allege that elected officers have failed to comply with agreed procedures for dealing with staff grievances, including non-consultation on new forms for expenses. But because of legal advice that they would be in breach of a High Court order, the elected officers of ASTI did not attend yesterday’s hearing.
The union’s general secretary Charlie Lennon was granted an injunction last month preventing the president Pat Cahill and vice-president Susie Hall from investigating allegations which he rejects, relating to the reimbursement of expenses.
However, SIPTU official Patricia King said last night that the issues before the Labour Court were unrelated to the High Court proceedings. She described yesterday’s move by ASTI management as an unprecedented move by a trade union.
“The management refused to attend the Labour Relations Commission when we referred the issues there in June, long before the injunction was taken in the High Court and they have now behaved most discourteously to the Labour Court,” Ms King said.
“The staff in the ASTI are working in a very stressful environment as a result of the current industrial relations atmosphere and I’m sure that ordinary members of the union would be appalled if they knew the manner in which they were being treated,” she said.
Ms King said staff were continuing to pay union costs out of their own pockets, despite the fact that they have not been reimbursed for such expenses since last February.
NUJ national organiser Des Fagan said it was ironic that Mr Cahill spoke strongly about the need for management at a Limerick school to implement agreed industrial relations procedures earlier this week.
Last night, Mr Cahill said he and other members of management were following staff relations procedures and they regretted being unable to attend the Labour Court yesterday.
“Our legal advice was that we would be in danger of breaching a High Court order by attending,” he said. “I can’t understand why they couldn’t wait until the injunction was heard, but as soon as it is granted or lifted, we would be happy to go down to the Labour Court and refute the allegations,” Mr Cahill said.
However, the Labour Court chairman Finbarr Flood heard the ASTI staff’s unions make their case yesterday, and a determination on the issues is expected within a week.