ASTI members face pay cuts of €2,500 if cover withdrawn
Warning from Department of Education ratchets up tension in long-running dispute
Most teachers are contractually obliged to provide classroom cover for teachers who are sick or involved in school activities such as games and field trips
Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) face losing about €2,500 in their salaries if the union presses ahead with plans to withdraw supervision cover in schools from September.
The warning from the Department of Education significantly ups the ante in a long-running dispute with the union, whose members have already lost thousands of euro in frozen increments. Most teachers are contractually obliged to provide classroom cover for teachers who are sick or involved in school activities such as games and field trips.
However, delegates at the union’s annual convention last month voted to withdraw this cover from schools from September 1st as part of its dispute over issues including lower pay scales for new entrants.
This would likely lead to the cancellation of sports and school trips across hundreds of voluntary secondary schools.
ASTI members met with senior Department of Education officials on Wednesday and were told of new losses facing members if the union withdraws supervision cover.
Sources say officials told the union the department is prepared to deduct pay equivalent to 43 hours – the number of hours teachers provide under the supervision and substitution scheme – or about 5 per cent of members’ salaries.
This equates to about €2,500 for the average full-time teacher, but could be more or less, according to sources.
These cuts would be on top of permanent losses worth thousands of euro which have been incurred by members as a result of emergency legislation that has frozen their annual increments and locked members out of a range of other payments.
These cuts were triggered by the ASTI’s rejection of the Lansdowne Road agreement, which provides for limited restoration of austerity-era pay cuts, and its refusal to work additional ‘Croke Park’ hours.
The union’s leadership has been told by the Department that that these pay losses are permanent and retrospective pay is not on the table.
The latest warning on new potential pay cuts comes ahead of a special union convention on June 10th, which will debate a motion to suspend industrial action.
It has been prompted by a grassroots revolt from members who say they are concerned at the impact its strategy is having on members who are losing out on pay restoration and, in the case of new entrants, permanent contracts.
The union has been losing a steady stream of members since the beginning of this year, especially among new entrants who are locked out of pay increases and face a longer wait for permanent contracts.
Sources say the total numbers who have left this year have climbed close to 800, though this may be offset by some new teachers joining the union.
A suspension of industrial action would likely result in a resumption of increment payments for members, as well as other payments.
This would require members to work additional Croke Park hours - which amount to an additional hour a week - and to drop its opposition to junior cycle reforms.
The Department has stated it will be “constructive” in working with the union in the context of a union decision to suspend its industrial action.