Ministers tell ASTI public pay deal will not be changed

Union denies strike threat over pay and calls on Government for response

 Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin  who said today the Haddington Road agreement would not be reopened. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin who said today the Haddington Road agreement would not be reopened. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 13:10

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said there will be no changes made to the Haddington Road agreement on public service pay.

Mr Howlin made his comments following last week’s move by the secondary teachers’ union ASTI to reject the deal and to vote for industrial action.

On his way into a Cabinet meeting this morning Mr Howlin said the Haddington Road agreement was a composite part of the upcoming Budget and would not be renegotiated.

“Obviously, it has been implemented from the 1st of July. We need the savings. It’s part of the budgetary arithmetic so I would ask people to reflect on it.”

“None of this is easy, none of the work we are doing is easy but it’s not changing,” Mr Howlin said. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan also today said the deal could not be changed.

In response, ASTI general secretary Pat King said the union’s membership had already “very carefully” considered and examined the proposals in the agreement and had voted by a two-to-one majority to reject them.

“The teachers have said it has to be changed. The minister says it won’t be changed. This will have to be solved, and it will be solved but right now teachers are saying they will not accept the Haddington Road agreement,” Mr King said.

Mr King said it was not the union’s intention to adversely affect the education of students.

“We don’t want to affect students so we targeted administration work, work outside of teaching, work that wouldn’t affect students.”

Holding parent-teacher meetings within normal school time will only have a “marginal” effect on students, Mr King said.

“We are not taking strike action against students, we are saying that meetings must take place during normal working hours - not outside.”

“Our intention is to protect education as far as we can”

“Our dispute is about the quality and the disintegration of education over the past number of years. Time and time again, Government has intervened, taken away teachers, taken away guidance councillors, taken away all the supports and resources and the teaching profession is saying No.”

Calling on the Government to sit down for talks with the union, Mr King denied the dispute was over remuneration.

“I don’t think this is about money. What we are complaining about are changes in structure and imposition of hours and imposition of time on our already burdened schools. That’s not about money. I can’t understand why Government wouldn’t sit down and examine the proposals. It’s not about money, it’s not about pay and we’re available.

“The Government has to respond now. We have set out our stall. We have decided what we are going to do and that’s our position.”

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