Significant progress made towards ending ASTI dispute

Union’s executive council to consider new ballot at meeting on Saturday

A possible settlement has emerged that could end the ongoing industrial action being taken by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland.

A possible settlement has emerged that could end the ongoing industrial action being taken by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland.

Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 08:47

A possible settlement has emerged that could end the ongoing industrial action being taken by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland. The union’s standing committee has recommended that its central executive council allow a ballot of members that could end the dispute.

The move follows talks today between the union and officials from the Department of Education and Skills. The progress has been welcomed by the Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn who said he “hopes this brings a resolution to this matter”.

The dispute started on October 2nd after ASTI became the only public service union to reject the Haddington Road agreement on public service pay and conditions.

It has caused a level of disruption to normal education and tuition activities mainly in voluntary schools where ASTI is the dominant teachers union. It meant that ASTI teachers would not participate in parent teacher meetings outside of normal school hours, which forced parents to take time off work to attend. It also meant that teachers would not attend any afterhours training sessions or meetings.

This low-level but persistent disruption could end if the union’s council agrees with its standing committee and sanctions a ballot of members. It meets next Saturday to consider the standing committee’s recommendation.

It remains unclear whether the dispute will be suspended should a ballot take place, a process that could take several weeks. “That will be an issue if a ballot takes place, it hasn’t come up yet,” a union spokeswoman said this evening.

ASTI entered negotiations with several areas of concern including what it called the casualisation of secondary teaching, how 33 extra teachers work hours would be used and questions over the reform of the junior cycle. All three of these have now effectively been sidelined with the establishment of an expert group to consider and report on casualisation, a working group to make recommendations on the junior cycle and a review of the usage of the extra hours by the department, teacher unions and school management .

ASTI dissatisfaction with the problematic issue of substitution and supervision does seem to have won a concession in the talks however. Up to a third of the union’s teachers will be given the option of staying out of substitution and supervision duties, but will have a salary reduction to compensate. The remainder of teachers will not have this opt out option if a ballot is called and accepted.

“These proposals are best product we could produce from the negotiations,” ASTI general secretary Pat King said.

The negotiations also addressed union concerns about the position of non-permanent or temporary teachers which accounts for about 30 per cent of teachers, he said.

“Principals would welcome any move that could help to resolve the dispute,” said a spokesman for the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals. “We welcome the talks and the sooner the situation is resolved the better.”

The National Parents Council Post Primary also welcomed today’s talks and the fact that progress had been made. “We wish them well in progressing this further and are anxious that the matter is dealt with as quickly as possible.”

The dispute remained low key over the past weeks but it was having an effect as students were sent home on half days to allow parent teacher meetings and teacher in service training to take place. “It has had an impact and has cost parents money,” said on education source.