Teachers warned of €31,000 losses if they reject extra hours

Intervention comes as ASTI ballots on whether to cease working ‘Croke Park’ time

Teachers risk losing up to €31,000 over the next four years if they vote to cease working additional hours, the Department of Education has said.

The intervention comes as members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) ballot on whether to reject working 33 non-teaching hours agreed under the Croke Park agreement.

The department says a rejection of these hours would be a repudiation of the Lansdowne Road argreement and would trigger a series of financial penalties.

If the union votes to reject working these hours, the Department estimates that new teachers risk losing out on €26,000 between now and 2020. This would rise to €31,000 for longer-serving teachers over the same time-frame.

These losses are based on increment freezes, non-inclusion of supervision and substitution payments and the withdrawal of improved pay scales for new entrants.

In addition, the department says other consequences of repudiating the pay deal include:

* Losing any protection against compulsory redundancy;

* Temporary teachers would only be considered for permanent posts after four years rather than two;

* A continued moratorium over filling “posts of responsibility” vacancies;

This latest warning to teachers comes amid controversy about whether the country’s largest secondary teachers’ union is fully informing its members about the vote’s full implications.

The department’s secretary general Seán Ó Foghlú said last week that it was “extraordinary” the union’s central executive committee had opted not to put full information on all the possible implications of such a vote before its members.

The union, however, has rejected suggestions that it has not informed members about the consequences of ceasing to work the hours.

It said its 56 branches have been asked to hold information meetings in order to ensure members have access to “all the information they require in order to make an informed decision on this matter,” it said, in a statement.

“The ASTI is a vibrant trade union with members working in schools all over the country. The union is in continuous engagement with members through school, branch, regional and national structures. All decisions are made democratically through transparent and accountable structures and decision-making mechanisms.”

However, Fintan O’Mahony, a member of the ASTI who stood for election as the union’s vice-president recently, said he believed incomplete information had been circulated to members.

He also warned that the union could face legal challenges from members in the event of a rejection, on the basis that they not been properly informed of the consequences of rejecting Croke Park hours.

"With a disillusioned and disconnected membership, it is essential they know the implications of their decisions, particularly when being outside an agreement will put many vulnerable teachers in grave danger," he wrote, in a blog post.

Mr O'Mahony said the ASTI's Nuacht bulletin - circulated to the union's 17,500 members - omitted important pieces of information around the full consequnces for teachers.

The union is holding a school-based ballot on the Croke Park hours issues between now and May 11th.

This move is aimed at increasing the proportion of members likely to vote following a dismal turnout in recent postal ballots.

The issue of whether members would be sufficiently informed dominated a recent meeting of the union’s 180-member central executive committee.

Members narrowly rejected a proposal to establish a committee to inform teachers about the pros and cons of ceasing to work Croke Park hours.

Those in support of the proposal argued that teachers had a right to know the full consequences of any such vote, with some arguing that the union could be legally vulnerable if some teachers lost their jobs or significant sums of money.

However, more hardline members argued that such a move would play into the department’s hands and unduly sway members.

While no committee was established, the executive was told its newsletter would contain some details of the potential financial consequences.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent