Brendan Howlin to stand firm on payments to ASTI members
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicates he would like to hold talks with teachers over pay deal rejection
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin: ‘It is not sustainable that people who have embraced the agreement would do work without pay and those who put themselves outside it would be paid for that work.’ Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has indicated that the Government would like talks with second-level teachers who have been involved in industrial action since last week but has warned that the Haddington Road pay deal would have to be implemented.
The Minister also signalled that the Government would not allow a situation to continue where members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), who rejected the deal, would continue to be paid to carry out supervision and substitution duties in schools while those who accepted the deal would not.
The union has said previously that any unilateral decision by the Government to withdraw these payments – worth about €1,700 a year – could see members refusing to carry out the duties. In previous disputes a boycott of supervision and substitution duties resulted in schools closing due to health and safety concerns.
Since last Wednesday members of the union have been engaged in low-level industrial action, which mainly involved refusing to take part in parent-teacher and other meetings outside school hours.
ASTI members are also not participating in in-service training for the Government’s new reforms of the Junior Cert and not taking on any new middle-management duties without payment.
Teachers in the ASTI embarked on the industrial action after rejecting the Haddington Road agreement on public service pay and productivity.
Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland accepted the agreement. Under its provisions, they will be obliged to carry out supervision and substitution work without payment, although there is a promise that this will be restored in the future. On RTÉ’s This Week yesterday, Mr Howlin said he was disappointed there is one union “outside the consensus across the public service that the Haddington Road programme has to be delivered”.
The Minister said everybody knew the agreement could not unravel as it was a “critical part of this year’s Budget calculation”.
Mr Howlin said the vast majority of public servants were determined to stick with the plan, as difficult as it was.
On supervision and substitution, Mr Howlin said: “It is not sustainable that people who have embraced the agreement would do work without pay and those who put themselves outside it would be paid for that work. Everybody understands that is not a sustainable situation.
“I have an objective of implementing Haddington Road because without that the budgetary arithmetic for next year won’t stack up.”
The Minister said the financial emergency legislation, (which came into effect for ASTI members after they rejected Haddington Road), gave authority to the Minister for Education to change employment conditions such as the payment of supervision and substitution allowances.
The general secretary of the ASTI Pat King said the union believed that talks had the potential to resolve the dispute.
“The decision by teachers who are members of the ASTI to engage in industrial action was not taken lightly. We want a resolution to this dispute. It is clear from the Minister’s comments today that he also wants a resolution. There can be no resolution without talks.”