New effort to overcome barrier to teachers' deal

 

A REPORT on the ongoing dispute over a new appointments and promotions procedure for vocational school teachers is to be issued in an effort to overcome the last major stumbling block in teachers' negotiations on a successor to the Programme for Competitiveness and Work.

Despite the publication of a revised set of proposals for a new agreement, which contains improved offers on early retirement, pay, non teaching duties and permanent appointments in vocational and comprehensive schools, the dispute between the TUI and the Irish Vocational Education Association remains to be settled.

The TUI is due to discuss the proposals at a special conference in February, but the union has warned that unless a revised set of procedures for the appointment and promotion of vocational teachers is agreed, the union will not put the revised PCW proposals to ballot.

Mr Sean Healy, the Government appointed facilitator for the teachers' PCW discussions, has indicated that he will issue a report on the dispute after a facilitation process last weekend failed to make any progress.

The Minister for Education, Ms Breathnach, may now have to intervene to settle the matter.

Only the INTO has accepted the package, put forward earlier this year. The ASTI's central executive committee will consider the revised proposals before deciding on a ballot of members.

As expected, the revised proposals increase the annual quota levels for early retirement, raising them from 150 to 400 under a three strand system, with up to 250 retirements covered by Strand 2 alone.

Strand 1 will allow early retirement for teachers with not less than 15 years' service who are experiencing "personal difficulties" in their teaching duties.

Strand 2 allows teachers aged 55 or over with a minimum of 20 years service to retire, as long as the school management verifies that their retirement would enhance the school's service.

Strand 3 can be availed of by teachers in posts which are "surplus to requirements" and from which they cannot be deployed readily, or which will not be filled if they leave.

In each strand extra years will be added for pension purposes, although the teachers involved must have at least five years' service.

Post primary teachers with 35 years of pensionable service will be able to retire from the age of 55, without quota restrictions, and teacher training will qualify as part service. For those who stay in service after 35 years, the annual allowance is to be increased from £1000 to £1015 and will attract future pay increases.

Under revised proposals for promotions, the Government has also compromised on its original plan to make merit rather than seniority the main criterion for determining promotions. Under new proposals, "the most senior suitable applicant" will be appointed to posts and an independent appeals system will be established.

The original proposal of 15 hours of additional work each year on non teaching activities has been reduced to one staff and one parent meeting per term. The eighth point of the common basic pay scale has been deleted, as signalled earlier this year.