ASTI members to suspend industrial action
Secondary teachers’ union approves the move at a special convention in Dublin
ASTI president Ed Byrne addresses the ASTI special convention at Citywest Hotel, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Second-level teachers who are members of the ASTI are to suspend their current campaign of industrial action.
In a long-running dispute, the union had been refusing to work additional hours due to their opposition to the Lansdowne Road public service pay agreement and had objected to junior-cycle reforms.
However, at a special ASTI convention held in Dublin on Saturday, members decided to suspend the current campaign of industrial action by 240 votes to 121.
The move paves the way for about 17,000 members of the union to receive a number of payments which had been frozen due their opposition to the Lansdowne Road deal.
ASTI members will also now qualify for faster access to permanent contracts in schools in the future.
However, teachers will not receive any retrospective payments.
The decision of the convention means that members of the ASTI will co-operate with the requirement under pay deals with the Government to work 33 additional unpaid hours each year - the so-called Croke Park hours - and with Government junior-cycle reform plans when schools re-open in September, pending a ballot on the new draft public service pay agreement that was agreed last week.
A ballot by ASTI members on the proposed new accord will not take place until the autumn.
The special convention had heard that 1,216 members had resigned from the ASTI in recent times.
Over the last year, the Government imposed a series of financial penalties on ASTI members for what it described as “repudiating” the Lansdowne Road agreement.
These penalties included a freeze on pay increments - which can be worth up to €2,000 for individual teachers depending on where they are on the pay scale - and the non-payment of about €800 per person for supervision and substitution duties.
ASTI members also did not benefit from the €1,000 accelerated pay rise provided by the Government to other public service groups in April.
Young teachers seeking contracts of indefinite duration had to wait four years for them if they were members of the ASTI, while those in other unions could achieve such security of tenure after two years.
On foot of the decision on Saturday, members of the ASTI who were recruited after 2012 can avail of higher payments already in place for members of other unions, which went some of the way - but not all of the way - towards tackling the two-tier pay structure in schools.
The Department of Education has warned that penalties could be re-imposed if the ASTI re-commenced industrial action in the future.
ASTI president Ed Byrne said after the special convention that the union will now suspend industrial action on elements of the Lansdowne Road agreement and junior-cycle reforms.
“We will move inside the tent until there is a ballot of members on the extension of the Lansdowne Road agreement.
“Members from today will have their increments unfrozen, their supervision and substitution payments returned and they will start to benefit from the €1,000 increase which was brought forward from September to April.
“The convention understood there would be no retrospection, but they decided it was probably wiser to bank what was there.”
Mr Byrne said the union had had wide-scale support in the early part of the industrial action campaign, but that as things got more difficult and as the Government took more punitive action against ASTI members, “obviously some people started to slip away”.
He said that in a ballot on the issue in January there was almost a 50/50 divide.
“Therefore it had been slightly divisive, but hopefully nothing that is lasting.”
Noel Buckley, a member of the union’s central executive, said all members had been affected by the industrial action campaign, in the sense they had experienced a wage cut through the freezing of increments.
He said a lot of members had been questioning where the ASTI’s industrial strategy was going.
“As people said in here today, the only people who were hurting from our industrial strategy was our own members.”
He said the move on Saturday would allow members to take a breather before deciding on the proposed new public service agreement in the autumn.