ASTI industrial action to continue if members reject latest proposals

Union urges teachers to vote ‘No’ in ballot on Haddington Road agreement

ASTI general secretary Pat King: union executive has decided the proposals are “not sufficient”. Photograph: Alan Betson

ASTI general secretary Pat King: union executive has decided the proposals are “not sufficient”. Photograph: Alan Betson


Second-level teachers represented by the ASTI will continue with their current campaign of industrial action if they vote to reject new proposals under the Haddington Road agreement in another ballot to be held shortly.

A key issue in the forthcoming ballot will be the turnout. In its first ballot on Haddington Road about 45 per cent of ASTI members did not vote.

The Government is likely to be banking on the chance that, while the union executive is urging rejection of the new proposals, a silent majority of members may agree to back them.

The union warned yesterday it would have to respond if the Government moved to impose either supervision and substitution duties or further pay cuts on its members under financial emergency legislation.

The 180-strong central executive committee of the ASTI on Saturday decided to put a new package of clarifications or concessions under the Haddington Road agreement to members in another ballot. However it urged members to reject the proposals.

Under proposals agreed in talks with the Department of Education last week, teachers could be permitted to opt out of the requirement under Haddington Road to carry out supervision and substitution duties in return for a pay cut.

Increments were to be paid to ASTI members backdated to July if they accepted Haddington Road, while the union said that up to 300 assistant principal posts would be allocated to second-level schools this year.

An expert group on fixed-term and part-time teaching was to begin work in January. And a working group was to be set up to consider union concerns over planned reforms to the Junior Cert.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, ASTI general secretary Pat King said the union’s executive had decided the proposals were “not sufficient”.

He said it was now up to ASTI members to make a judgment call on the proposals.

In a note on its website the union said: “While the new proposals contain a number of changes and new commitments in relation to teachers and education, members of the central executive council expressed the view that second-level teachers all over the country are exasperated by the ongoing damage to second-level education and the teaching profession due to budget cuts and austerity measures. The view of the central executive is that the changes which emerged from the recent talks are not acceptable.”

The union said the ballot would take place in the coming weeks. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it would await the decision “and consider its implications”.

If the ASTI votes again to reject Haddington Road, the Government is likely to come under pressure to adopt a firmer stance in response to the low-level campaign of industrial action which has seen its members refuse to take part in meetings outside of school hours.

If the dispute escalates one potential flashpoint will be supervision and substitution duties in school. Already members of another second-level teaching union, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, are carrying out such duties on a compulsory and unpaid basis after they accepted Haddington Road.

The ASTI has told its members that, as they rejected the accord, supervision and substitution still attracts payment of about €1,700 per year.

However no funding was provided to the Department of Education to make any supervision and substitution payments next year. Normally the first tranche of such payments is made in February.

The ASTI has previously warned that any move by the Government to invoke financial emergency legislation to force members to carry out such duties unpaid could see them refusing to do so.