ASTI warns against plans to make surplus teachers redundant

Industrial action increases chances of disruption in run-up to State exams

An ASTI picket at Monkstown Park College in Dublin last year. Photograph: Eric Luke

An ASTI picket at Monkstown Park College in Dublin last year. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

The country’s biggest secondary teachers’ union has warned against any move to make its members redundant on foot of its dispute with the Government.

The Irish Times reported on Monday that 60 secondary schools have received letters notifying them of their surplus staff.

Up to now, teachers who have become surplus to requirement have been redeployed to other schools in need of teaching staff.

However, the Government has withdrawn this protection for members of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) following its rejection of settlement proposals last month.

In a statement on Monday, ASTI president Ed Byrne said the union will immediately ballot its membership on industrial action if the Government moves to make any of its members redundant.

This raises the prospect of potential disruption to tens of thousands of students preparing for their State exams in June.

The union, however, has said it will be mindful of the impact of any action on students.

Mr Byrne said there is an “effective and cost efficient” redeployment scheme in place for teachers and that making teachers redundant would have a negative impact on public funds.

“Currently surplus teachers are redeployed to schools where their skills are required,” he said. “ This represents value for money for the State and the tax payer.”

He said the “threat” by the Department of Education to make ASTI members redundant on the basis that they exercised their democratic right in a ballot would be “significantly more costly for the State and ultimately for the tax payer”.

Mr Byrne said the Government’s use of financial emergency legislation - to set aside normal industrial relations and punish trade union members for exercising their democratic rights.

A spokesman for Minister for Education Richard Bruton confirmed that 60 secondary schools had been identified as possible surplus schools for the 2017/18 school year.

The department expects to know the final position in relation to the number of surplus teachers by late March.

The level of surplus is likely to reduce in light of information gathered from affected schools, such as retirements, career breaks and job-sharing, and demographic trends.

“Under the Lansdowne Road agreement, the Government committed that compulsory redundancy would not apply to public servants,” a spokesman for Mr Bruton said.

“This protection is not available to staff who are outside the terms of that agreement. The department of education confirmed this position to ASTI prior to its recent ballot.”

The roots of the current dispute go back to last year when the ASTI voted to cease working additional working hours agreed under an earlier pay deal.

The Government saw this move as a “repudiation” of the Lansdowne Road agreement, on the basis that additional working hours are crucial for the wider public sector.

This triggered a series of penalties under financial emergency legalisation and the withdrawal of protections such as the redeployment scheme.