Asti warns of possible school closures in pay deal dispute

Union chief Pat King warns teachers could forfeit up to €6,700 in increments over stance

Asti general secretary Pat King warned individual teachers could forfeit up to €6,700 in lost increments, while others could face redundancy or reduced entitlement to permanency, because of the union’s stance on the Lansdowne Road pay deal. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Asti general secretary Pat King warned individual teachers could forfeit up to €6,700 in lost increments, while others could face redundancy or reduced entitlement to permanency, because of the union’s stance on the Lansdowne Road pay deal. File photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

The head of the State’s main second level teaching union is warning of school closures next autumn if the next Government faces down secondary teachers who have voted to oppose the new Lansdowne Road pay agreement.

The Irish Times has learned that, in an analysis marked “confidential” given to the ASTI executive, union general secretary Pat King warned that individual teachers could forfeit up to €6,700 in lost increments, while others could face redundancy or reduced entitlement to permanency because of the union’s stance.

Mr King said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform had spelled out at a meeting last week strong actions the Government could take on foot of rejection of the Lansdowne Road deal by the ASTI.

Industrial action

If implemented, these measures would have to lead to widespread industrial action in schools next year, he said.

Members of ASTI last week voted strongly to reject the Lansdowne Road deal, and its executive said it would not be bound by an overall decision of the public service committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to back the accord.

The document was circulated by Mr King to the ASTI’s 23-member standing committee a day after members balloted to reject the Lansdowne Road deal.

There was an extraordinarily low turnout of 31.5 per cent, and Mr King warned that the union’s 18,000 members had not been fully informed about the implications of their decision.

“It is a fact that when members were voting they did not know about or understand what is in FEMPI [the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill]. We do.”

Productivity

He said the “logic” of the union’s decision to reject Lansdowne Road was that it ceased co-operating with productivity arrangements introduced under the previous Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements.

Teachers are obliged to work an extra 33 additional hours under the Croke Park deal and to carry out 43 hours of supervision and substitution (S&S) duties.

“A full-blown dispute over the 33 hours and the S&S hours could well lead to school closures in September 2016 either as a result of strikes or a lock-out,” Mr King said.

He noted ASTI members also faced the possible loss of a right to permanency after two years under a deal negotiated within the Haddington Road framework. Were the Government to refuse to honour this “it would have to be viewed by ASTI as draconian and extreme. Again, industrial action would be the only commensurate response.”

Acknowledging a weakness in the union’s stance, he said: “ASTI will be in a totally isolated position, with no support from the rest of the trade union movement and facing a bitter onslaught from the public and the media. This will greatly strengthen the Government’s position.”

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland, which represents a smaller number of secondary teachers along with lecturers, has also passed a motion saying it would not be bound by the congress decision.