TUI may face hefty financial settlement over ‘poaching’ claims

Teachers’ Union of Ireland told it should pay ASTI to make up for loss of members

ASTI members  picketing Rosmini Community College during a recent industrial dispute.  The union  lost about 2,000 members during a recent dispute. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

ASTI members picketing Rosmini Community College during a recent industrial dispute. The union lost about 2,000 members during a recent dispute. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) may end up paying hundreds of thousands of euro to a rival union following allegations it “poached” more than 1,000 members.

This follows an investigation into allegations by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) that many of its members were recruited by the TUI during an industrial dispute last year.

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

A disputes committee established by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions – the umbrella body for the trade union movement – recently directed the TUI to write to 1,059 members and advise them they were recruited in breach of trade union rules. These members will be free to rejoin the ASTI.

After a six-week period, the congress will meet both unions to determine how many have rejoined their former union.

Arising from this, the TUI will be “required to make a financial settlement with the ASTI, which reflects the loss of membership subscriptions involved, if any”, according to internal records of the disputes’ committee’s findings.

It says the general secretary of congress will be available to assist in determining the structure and size of the settlement.

Well-placed sources said while they expected some members may return to their former union, they anticipated many would opt to remain with the TUI

The development comes at a time when teachers’ unions are presenting a united front in tackling the two-tier pay gap.

The ASTI lost more than €250,000 last year in revenue from the loss of about 2,000 members between 2016 and 2017. This saw the union’s overall membership fall to its lowest level in more than 15 years.

The TUI’s membership, by contrast, increased by at least 1,200 last year, according to Department of Education figures based on the number of subscriptions taken at source from teachers’ salaries.

Well-placed sources said while they expected some members may return to their former union, they anticipated many would opt to remain with the TUI.

The TUI, which is entitled to appeal the findings, has previously declined to comment on the investigation.

During a dispute last year, there was a financial incentive for TUI members to join the ASTI.

This was because the ASTI was considered to have “repudiated” the Lansdowne Road pay deal in place at the time, which triggered losses for members worth thousands of euro in frozen pay and forfeited payments.

The TUI, however, remained inside the pay deal and its members were unaffected by these penalties.