Teachers to take legal challenge to financial emergency legislation

ASTI members protest against alleged Department of Education ‘interference’ in ballot

File image: The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) staged a demonstration outside the Department of Education on Friday in protest at what it described as unprecedented interference in a ballot currently underway on whether members should cease working 33 non-teaching hours agreed under the former Croke Park agreement. Photograph: Dave Meehan.

File image: The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) staged a demonstration outside the Department of Education on Friday in protest at what it described as unprecedented interference in a ballot currently underway on whether members should cease working 33 non-teaching hours agreed under the former Croke Park agreement. Photograph: Dave Meehan.

 

Second level teachers are to legally challenge financial emergency legislation introduced in recent years to underpin cuts to pay and conditions for staff across the public service.

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) also staged a demonstration outside the Department of Education on Friday in protest at what it described as unprecedented interference in a ballot currently underway on whether members should cease working 33 non-teaching hours agreed under the former Croke Park agreement.

On Friday, the department warned teachers that they could face serious consequences if they voted to reject the Croke Park hours.

The department argued that a rejection of these hours would represent a repudiation of the Lansdowne Road argreement, negotiatied last year, and would trigger a series of financial penalties under updated financial emregency legislation put in place by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition last autumn.

Internal affairs

ASTI president Máire Ní Chiarba condemned what she described as an attempt by the department to interfere in the union’s internal affairs.

She said the the protest was taking place as ASTI had been “provoked” .

Ms Ní Chiarba also strongly criticised comments made last week by the department’s secretary general Seán Ó Foghlú, who said it was “extraordinary” that the union’s central executive committee had opted not to put full information on the possible implications of the vote on the additional hours before its members.

Ms Ní Chiarba said the ASTI totally disputed any assertion that it did not provide full information to its members.

She asked if the department had intervened as it was unhappy with the result of ballots held recently by the ASTI on other issues such as junior cycle reform.

Ms Ní Chiarba said the ASTI had taken a decision that it would legally challenge the financial emergency legislation.

“We are not going to allow our members to be intimidated.We are going to protect our members,” she said.

The department said the consequnces of repudiating the Lansdowne Road deal included :

- teachers risking the loss of up to €31,000 over the next four years based on increment freezes, non-inclusion of supervision and substitution payments and the withdrawal of improved pay scales for new entrants

- the loss of any protection against compulsory redundancy

- temporary teachers would only be considered for permanent posts after four rather than two years

- a continued moratorium over filling “posts of responsibility” vacancies.