ASTI to drop penalties against teachers who want to rejoin

Union lost almost 2,000 members last year during campagin of industrial action

Delegates attending the ASTI Annual Convention in Cork heard the move to waive penalties for any former members who now wished to rejoin was “a wise decision” and “in our best interests”. Photograph: Gerard McCarthy

Delegates attending the ASTI Annual Convention in Cork heard the move to waive penalties for any former members who now wished to rejoin was “a wise decision” and “in our best interests”. Photograph: Gerard McCarthy

 

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland is to waive penalties against former members who left the union during its controversial campaign of industrial action last year.

The union lost almost 2,000 members last year during its dispute with the Government which triggered pay losses for thousands of members.

An internal report describes the losses as “alarming” and says they have cost the union hundreds of thousands of euro in lost membership fees.

The fall-off in membership sparked a dispute with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) over claims that some of its members were “poached” last year.

Under industrial relations rules, rival unions are not permitted to hire members from each other during a dispute.

Tipperary-based teacher Noel Buckley told the ASTI’s annual convention that the move to waive penalties for any former members who now wished to rejoin was “a wise decision” and “in our best interests”.

He said the TUI was now “active and aggressive” in how it was recruiting new members.

However, he said the biggest single threat now facing the teaching profession was de-unionisation.

The conference heard that both unions were competing for new members across more than 130 dual-union community and comprehensive schools.

A number of delegates suggested incentives to attract new teachers to the ASTI such as free membership or financial sweeteners through the ASTI Credit Union.

Fergal Canton, a Kilkenny-based teacher, said “hostility is not the best way to recruit members”.

“We are in a beauty competition with two unions,” he said. “Carrying a knife or an axe in your belt is not the best way to recruit a new partner... Magnanimity is far better than hostility.”

However, some delegates questioned whether penalties should be waived for members who left and asked what message it sent out to those who stayed with the union.

“People like that should not be given a blanket waiver,” one delegate warned.

However, most speakers agreed that a longer-term view was in the best interests of the trade union.

Pat Deery, a Monaghan-based teacher, said the union needed to “diligently and fiercely pursue potential new ASTI members.”

“I don’t think you will win them over with goodies,” he said.

Mr Deery said the union needed to work hard to persuade new entrants to the profession to join the ASTI.