Rough ride in store for leaders


IT'S HARD to look anywhere on the programme for the ASTI convention without coming across motions calling for industrial action. In what promises to be the most militant conference in years, there are proposals for industrial action on issues such as early retirement, pension entitlements for temporary teachers and, indeed, any attempt to worsen teachers' conditions.

Many of these motions in the programme are asterisked, meaning they would have fallen had the membership accepted the Government's offer on pay and conditions. But to the chagrin of the union leadership, the offer was decisively rejected, and the conference must now decide on a variety of disparate and, in many cases, unrealistic claims.

Thus, the Wexford branch wants the ASTI to lodge a substantial salary claim based not just on members' implementation of new programmes and new Leaving Cert syllabuses, but on their "increasing general workload".

Other motions oppose the Department's Time in School circular, any change to the present method of promotion on the basis of seniority and any future ASTI involvement in centralised pay negotiations.

The union leadership is also likely to face the ire of the rank-and-file following the 63:37 vote against the Government's offer. A number of dissident Dublin branches - most notably, Dublin South 2, whose leaflet opposing the deal was widely distributed in schools - will make their dissatisfaction with the ASTI negotiators abundantly clear.

But once the dust has settled, the conference will face the difficult task of deciding what to do now.

The Minister for Education has said no more money is available for teachers, and the INTO is anxious to press ahead with the implementation of the deal, so delegates will have to tread carefully. At stake is the fragile unity of the teacher unions and the already declining image of teachers in public opinion.

The Tuam, Co Galway, branch wants the union to address its public relations difficulties in dealing with an "increasingly hostile" media and public. Cork North suggests this be done by appointed a public relations consultancy.

The controversial question of whether the religious should be allowed join the ASTI also gets another airing this year. On the last occasion this was debated, a majority of delegates voted to relax the ban on the religious, but the required two-thirds majority needed for a rule change was not obtained.