ASTI set to oppose cuts to teachers' allowances

Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 01:00

THE UNION representing secondary teachers has warned that it will not accept proposals put forward by the Government to cut allowances for serving staff.

The ASTI said any such move would represent a clear breach of the Croke Park agreement and “should not be contemplated by the Government”.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said: “The allowances under threat – island allowance, Gaeltacht allowance, allowance for teaching through Irish and the allowance for principals serving as secretary to a board of management – form an integral part of these teachers’ pay and, as such, come under the Croke Park deal.”

“The ASTI will not countenance a further pay cut for teachers and will challenge any attempt to introduce these changes. The public service unions entered the agreement in good faith and teachers have delivered everything asked from them under the agreement – the Government must now stick to their side of the bargain.”

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is seeking to have 88 allowances paid to serving staff eliminated as a priority. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said on Thursday this was not an exhaustive list and Government departments could seek to abolish additional allowances.

Under the Croke Park agreement, unions could seek to engage in consultation on the abolition of each individual allowance and take each case to the Labour Relations Commission and ultimately to the Labour Court for a binding ruling. This entire process could take almost three months and could bog down the State’s industrial relations machinery.

The department said yesterday the Minister had flagged the possibility of introducing a fast-track resolution process to union leaders for dealing with allowances. It said a response was awaited. Union sources said they had not received firm proposals.

Separately, Mr Howlin said yesterday it was important for union leaders who attended a meeting with the Taoiseach on the Croke Park agreement on Thursday “to hear the scale of the change that we require”. “The trade unions know what needs to be done and, in truth, there’s two elements to it: one, you need to acknowledge what has been done. Often, substantial changes that have been decades in the making that have happened in the last 18 months are pocketed unless you have sort of a row about them, such as sick leave and all the other things.”

Management in different parts of the public service will next week begin setting out proposals for reform under the Governments plan to accelerate the use of the Croke Park agreement.

There is an expectation that health service management will raise additional hours. Union sources said any such move would be rejected as outside the Croke Park process. Sources said issues such as additional hours could not be addressed on a sectoral basis.

This could result in matters being referred back to be dealt with across the public service – a move some sources have suggested could represent talks on a “bridge” to a new Croke Park deal.