Asti ballot result a relief for Government

All public service groups have now signed up to the accord aimed at saving €3 billion

Sally Maguire Asti president and Pat King general secretary wait for the Haddington Road ballot results at their head office on Winetavern Street, Dublin, today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Sally Maguire Asti president and Pat King general secretary wait for the Haddington Road ballot results at their head office on Winetavern Street, Dublin, today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 18:23

The Government will today be very much relieved that the decision by the 17,000-strong membership of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (Asti) to accept the Haddington Road deal has averted potentially the most serious public service industrial dispute in years.

The result of the Asti ballot means that all public service groups have now signed up to the accord which is aimed at generating savings of €300 million on the State’s paybill this year and €1 billion over 3 years.

The prospect of securing such savings while maintaining industrial peace looked very much in doubt at times over the last year, particularly after the bulk of public servants voted to reject the original Croke Park II agreement on pay and productivity.

After the intervention of the Labour Relations Commission the Haddington Road accord emerged which was certainly more benign for staff than the Croke Park II deal.

However Haddington Road was rejected by the Asti which since October has been engaged in a relatively low-level campaign of industrial action. This has mainly led to disruption to planned parent/teacher meetings after school hours.

The decision by Asti members to back Haddington Road means that this industrial action campaign will now end.

The result also means that the Government has avoided a potentially highly damaging escalation of the industrial action which could have seen hundreds of schools close in mid January.

The Cabinet had decided several weeks ago that if the Asti again voted to reject Haddington Road it would involve legislation to make supervision and substitution duties for the union’s members compulsory and unpaid from January 17th.

Up to now supervision and substitution duties have been voluntary for ASTI members who also received around €1,700 in payment annually.

Members of another teaching union, the TUI, are currently carrying out supervision and substitution duties on an unpaid basis after they accepted Haddington Road earlier in the year.

The Asti had warned that any move by the Government to unilaterally change its members terms and conditions under legislation would lead to an escalation of the dispute.

The likelihood was that the Asti would have directed members not to co-operate with supervision and substitution duties from January 17th when they became compulsory and unpaid under the Government’s directive.

This could quickly have led to teachers being taken off the payroll - as supervision and substitution would be seen by management as core duties - followed on by the closure of schools.

The Government believed that up to 550 schools where the Asti is either the dominant union or has a significant presence could have been affected by any escalated industrial action.

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