ASTI motions may spark fresh industrial unrest in schools

Move could deepen opposition to reform agenda and lead to closure of schools

ASTI may well be on a collision course with government over pay and productivity reforms, along with changes to the junior cycle. Photograph: The Irish Times

ASTI may well be on a collision course with government over pay and productivity reforms, along with changes to the junior cycle. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Schools may face widespread industrial action next autumn if teachers with the biggest second-level union propose next month to stop working additional hours agreed under the Croke Park deal.

The 18,000-strong Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is due to debate motions at its annual convention in late March that place the union on collision course with the Government over pay and productivity reforms, along with reforms to the junior cycle.

Under the Croke Park deal agreed in 2010, teachers are obliged to work an extra 33 hours a year and to carry out 43 hours of supervision and substitution duties.

At its convention this Easter, ASTI branches from Dungarvan, Kilkenny, Longford, west Mayo and Wicklow will propose to direct teachers to stop working the additional hours when the pay deal expires at the end of June.

Financial penalties

Under financial emergency measures agreed by the current Government, serious financial penalties could be placed on teachers who do not co-operate with these productivity measures.

Last year, the union’s then general secretary, Pat King, warned his executive in a confidential memo that refusal to work the additional hours could result in a “full blown dispute” and school closures linked to “strikes or a lock-out.”

Yesterday, Kieran Christie, the ASTI’s current general secretary, said the “Croke Park hours” have been a major source of frustration for teachers since their introduction.

“It is felt that they are constructed in a manner that doesn’t allow for the most productive use of valuable time,” Mr Christie said.

“Many of the hours require whole staff participation and, as such, have an inflexibility that prevents more focused developmental work that would be beneficial to teachers and students, such as preparation, planning and extra curricular activities, to name a few.”

Assess students The union will also debate a motion that seeks to direct members not to assess their own students for the school certification that forms part of the junior cycle reform.

If adopted, this could further entrench the union’s opposition to reforms which the Government has sought to introduce for several years.

The ASTI voted last year to reject the proposed reforms, which were accepted by the other second-level teachers’ union, the TUI.

The ASTI will hold a special conference early next month as part of its campaign against the changes. This will examine the factors driving curriculum reform and the impact on teachers’ professional lives.

A spokeswoman said the union has communicated a number of its concerns to the Department of Education.

These include the impact of the proposals on teaching time and the absence of State-certified oral exams for Gaeilge and modern European languages.