As industrial action at 500 second-level schools began yesterday, Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland president Pat King urged the Government to enter “appropriate talks” about their grievances.
With little likelihood of any major impact on students or families in the two thirds of schools where ASTI members work, its leaders may soon have to either bow down or step up the action.
Mr King’s statement did not define what “appropriate talks” means, but a spokesperson said aspects of Haddington Road are specific to second-level schools and could be looked at without unravelling the deal.
However, a spokeswoman for Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin reiterated last week’s message that there can be no changes to a deal accepted by all other public service unions.
Beyond a veiled threat about possible compulsory redundancies in the Dáil last week, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has been almost silent on the ASTI action. His department last night said the Government has already stated that the deal cannot be renegotiated.
He has legal power to change arrangements on supervision and substitution& work, which ASTI is telling members to continue doing and expect to be paid for, even though other teachers must now do it without pay. They will get pay increases in 2016 and 2017 instead.
There were no immediate signs of significant problems in schools yesterday. The main directives are non-participation in after-school meetings and teachers not taking on unpaid administrative work arising from unfilled middle management roles.
“Schools are focusing on maintaining teaching time and managing things at a local level,” said Joint Managerial Body general secretary Ferdia Kelly.
The group represents boards of 370 secondary schools owned by or run on behalf of religious orders, which are almost entirely staffed by the ASTI’s 16,000 non-retired members.
The situation is more complex at 120 schools where ASTI and Teachers’ Union of Ireland members work together. Distinctions may need to be made on issues like who is or is not obliged to take classes for colleagues absent on school business. The ASTI says members are no longer obliged to do so.