Strike fears grow as teachers reject pay proposals

Unions have mandate to strike if cuts imposed unilaterally by Government


The prospect of industrial action in schools in the autumn increasedlast night after the executives of two teaching unions effectively rejected the proposed new public service deal, now known as the Haddington Road Agreement.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) said that the proposals, which were drawn up earlier this week and published yesterday, did not go far enough.

The unions said the revised document “does not represent sufficient change from the original proposals” (then known as the Croke Park II proposals) which were rejected in a ballot last month.

The Government has indicated that unions that do not accept the new measures will face having cuts imposed under legislation which it published yesterday. It is understood that neither teaching union have plans at present to put the revised proposals out to a ballot of their members.

Employment law and industrial relations specialists last night said the unions could potentially face legal action from members if they were not allowed to vote on the new proposals and their terms and conditions were then worsened.

Members of the ASTI and the TUI have already voted in favour of industrial action, up to and including strikes, if the Government moved unilaterally to cut their pay or worsen their conditions of employment.

Collision course
The decision of the teaching unions to effectively reject the Haddington Road Agreement puts them on a collision course with the Government which is seeking to implement savings on its public service pay bill from July.

Under the revised proposals, payments for the operation of the supervision and substitution scheme in schools, worth about €1,700, would be ended, although some payments would be restored in 2016 and 2017. Those earning more than €65,000 would face a 5.5 per cent pay cut, although the original pay rates would be put in place again in future years.

ASTI general secretary Pat King said key reasons behind the emphatic rejection of Croke Park II by teachers remained part of the Haddington Road Agreement.

“These include the abolition of payment for supervision and substitution work and cuts to pay. In addition, teachers are aggrieved that after pay cuts averaging 14 per cent and significant additional work and flexibility given under the Croke Park agreement, the Government is again targeting teachers and other public sector workers.”

Workload concerns
TUI general secretary John MacGabhann said that the failure of the proposals to allay workload concerns and to tackle capacity deficits were factors in the TUI decision.

“Notwithstanding some welcome measures in regard to casualisation, the proposals do not go far enough in addressing the inequalities suffered by recent entrants to the teaching and lecturing professions.”

Separately, the country’s largest union, Siptu, urged its members in the public service to accept the new proposals.

The legislation will allow Ministers to cut the pay and change terms and conditions of public servants who do not accept the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013 also contains a number of contingency measures, such as a universal freeze on increments, which will not be introduced if the public service unions sign up to the deal.