Union warns special pay deals will trigger knock-on claims

Special treatment for striking gardaí and teachers ‘unacceptable’, Impact cautions

Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland are due to hold the first of seven one-day strikes on Thursday. Photograph: Eric Luke

Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland are due to hold the first of seven one-day strikes on Thursday. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Special treatment for striking gardaí and secondary teachers would be “unacceptable” and trigger a series of claims from unions inside the Lansdowne Road agreement, the largest public sector trade union has warned.

Head of communications for Impact Bernard Harbor has said a series of claims would be lodged quickly and “would be impossible to contain”.

Writing in today’s Irish Times, he said groups which earned “far less than teachers and gardaí” would make the case that they deserved a special deal too.

Members of the Garda Representative Association and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors are due to strike on the four Fridays in November, beginning on November 4th. They are seeking restoration of pay.

Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland are due to hold the first of seven one-day strikes on Thursday. The dispute centres on pay for recently-recruited teachers, and on supervision and substitution payments.

The Lansdowne Road agreement, negotiated in May 2015, began the process of reversing pay and pension cuts introduced for staff in the public service since 2008.

Public servants

Mr Harbor, whose union represents 60,000 public servants, said they were “not well served by the (thankfully few) voices who insist that full pay restoration must come before – rather than alongside – badly needed investment in services and infrastructure, and improved supports to the unemployed, pensioners, homeless families, and others who can’t depend on a regular living wage”.

He said the majority of public servants were keeping their side of the bargain and understood that income recovery could not happen overnight, but were increasingly wondering if they were going to be taken for granted.

He warned the Government must “avoid the temptation to interpret the responsible majority as indifferent or weak”.

“If special favours are conceded to any group outside the agreed framework of Lansdowne Road, other claims are bound to emerge.”

Separately, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he was concerned at reports that contingency plans for dealing with the Garda dispute would not be in place for another week.

“Obviously I don’t believe strike action should take place,” Mr Martin told reporters at the Fianna Fáil Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown, Co Kildare.

“The negotiations and talks that are under way would have to result in a resolution of the issues. But contingency planning should continue side-by-side with that.”

Talks between the Department of Justice and both the AGSI and the GRA are to take place this week in a bid to avert industrial action.

Talks are also due to resume between teachers and the Department of Education. The ASTI will meet senior department officials to discuss issues such as the use of Croke Park hours and new entrant pay.

Indefinite closure

The union’s planned withdrawal of supervision and substitution duties from Monday, November 7th, has the potential to close hundreds of schools indefinitely. This is because schools would be unable to open on health and safety grounds in the absence of personnel to supervise breaks and fill in for absent teachers.

While schools have begun recruiting parents and other members of the public as supervisors, most school managers say they will not be hired in time for the resumption of classes after mid-term.

In addition, the ASTI’s decision to include principals in its directive to cease supervision duties means it will be close to impossible for many schools to operate contingency plans.

While talks on pay and conditions get under way today, further talks are due tomorrow in a separate dispute with the ASTI over junior cycle reform.

Sources say talks on pay and conditions may also take place on Wednesday in a bid to avert school closures.