ASTI says secondary schools could face industrial action
Union calls emergency legislation on public pay ‘anti-democratic and anti-trade union’
ASTI president-elect Ed Byrne and general secretary Kieran Christie with union members protesting outside the Dáil yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Secondary school teachers have indicated that industrial action is likely if they fail to get talks with the Government over issues affecting them, including the “substandard” wages of newly qualified teachers.
Yesterday members of the standing committee of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) held a protest outside Leinster House to highlight opposition to Thursday’s renewal of the Financial Emergency in the Public Interest (Fempi) legislation.
The union said the law “gives extraordinary powers to governments to impose unilateral changes to pay and working conditions of public sector workers without any negotiation”.
It said it believed the legislation was “anti-democratic and anti-trade union”.
Speaking outside Leinster House, Ed Byrne, president- elect of the teachers’ union, said it needed to go into talks with the Government – and that there should be “no preconditions to those talks”.
“We need to be able to talk to them about all the issues that are affecting our members, and in particular, our newly qualified teachers who are on substandard wages and substandard contracts,” Mr Byrne said.
He said this was “one of the main issues” for the union. “If I was to say it is the main issue, you’d probably be close to the truth. But we do have some other issues that need to be worked out.”
“No classroom will remain untaught, no child will remain untaught and no school will close because of our withdrawal from 33 hours,” he said. “It seems a complete over-reaction to use Fempi legislation against us for that reason.”
Asked if the union was heading for strike action and the closure of schools in September, Mr Byrne said: “I think at this stage the Government have indicated that they’re unwilling to pay the supervision and substitution money.
“We have actually complied with the Haddington Road agreement. We have provided that service free of charge for three years; we were supposed to get the money back. They are now saying we’re not getting the money.”
Mr Byrne said the fact that 280 unions were in the Lansdowne Road process “doesn’t mean they are right”. It just meant that the deal “suited them”.
“What the Government do in response to that will inform whatever strategy we’ll take subsequent to that,” he said.
Mr McGinn said he thought industrial action was likely.
“I think that would be a reasonable response because the challenge and the confrontation has cranked up two or three further gears,” he said.
“And you can’t expect us to be silent and accepting of the serious attack on our pay and conditions, as exhibited under the Fempi.”