ASTI threat to leave Croke Park deal if allowances are cut

Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 01:00

A SECOND-LEVEL teacher union yesterday threatened to pull out of the Croke Park agreement if any cuts were made to allowances for qualifications, posts of responsibility or supervision.

Teachers’ allowances were part of pay and any cuts would breach the Croke Park agreement, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said.

Its general secretary, Pat King, told delegates attending the union’s annual delegate conference in Cork yesterday that any cut in allowances would trigger a ballot of members that could lead to the union’s withdrawal from the agreement.

“In response to the threat to teachers’ allowances, standing committee has made it perfectly clear that a cut to any part of serving teachers’ pay is a breach of the Croke Park agreement.

“If it happens the union’s central executive committee will be convened to decide on a ballot of members on continued participation in the Croke Park agreement.”

He said the threat of cuts had been made clear to the union by the Department of Education and Skills in February.

He also criticised the manner in which teachers’ pay had been represented by Government backbenchers, describing talk of teachers’ allowances as perks or bonuses as “malicious nonsense”.

“There is a great misunderstanding about teachers’ pay amongst the general public. Teachers are paid an agreed rate for the job.”

However, he went on to defend the Croke Park agreement, saying “the agreement is our best current protection against pay cuts and against redundancy for those to whom the agreement applies”.

Mr King also called into question the OECD/Pisa ranking reports that have shown Ireland sliding in international literacy and numeracy rankings.

He pointed to new figures from the Educational Research Centre showing an increase in immigrant students from 2.3 per cent in 2000 to 8.3 per cent in 2009.

The report also identified a drop in the number of school-leavers and an increase in the mainstreaming of children with special needs.

Over 90 per cent of Irish schools have enrolled children with special needs.

“Ireland has a 92 per cent retention rate of students up to age 18,” said Mr King.

“This is probably the greatest hidden success story of Irish education.

“We are number one in Europe along with Finland.”

Mr King hit out at comments made yesterday by Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, who accused teachers of failing to understand the fiscal crisis.

“Teachers do not need to be lectured to about the state of the economy.

“When teachers decry the impact of education cuts on their schools and on their students it is not because they don’t understand the gravity of the fiscal crisis, it is because they understand that targeting education and targeting young people exacerbates the crisis in the long run,” said Mr King.