Teachers given hope of wages refund if ASTI dispute settled


The Department of Education will press ahead today with arrangements to deduct five days' pay from more than 10,000 secondary teachers.

However, teachers could be refunded most of the money if the current moves to resolve the dispute are successful.

The concession comes amid cautious optimism that the dispute could be resolved before the next phase of one-day strikes next month. The ASTI has also threatened to ban exam work on Leaving Cert orals from February.

Plans to deduct a further four days' pay early next month have been suspended. The Department will not proceed with this deduction if the dispute is settled.

The Department announced plans to deduct payments after the ASTI moved to escalate its dispute 10 days ago. Members of ASTI do not expect to be paid for three one-day strikes but are demanding payment for six other "work-to-rule" days when they withdrew from supervision duties. During these days, ASTI members reported for work as normal but classes were cancelled on the advice of school management as the safety of students could not be guaranteed.

The Department decided to deduct the money before the appointment of a mediator in the dispute last Saturday. With all the arrangements in train, the Department had no alternative but to proceed with today's deductions.

Mr Tom Pomphrett of the Labour Relations Commission is working on a new negotiating process that would allow the ASTI to pursue its 30 per cent claim without undermining the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF).

ASTI opted out of the PPF earlier this year, but the other teaching unions, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation and the Teachers' Union of Ireland, are now using the PPF's benchmarking process to press their claim for a substantial pay rise. Benchmarking will reward teachers for both past and future changes in productivity.

It is expected all three teaching unions will be asked to participate in a special forum or commission on teaching early in the new year. The sticking point, however, could be how this forum will be linked to benchmarking, as the ASTI has refused to co-operate with the PPF. Some kind of peace formula is likely to be discussed by the ASTI executive on January 13th.

In another development three members of the ASTI strategy committee, which has been advising on the dispute, have resigned. Sources say the resignations were made to allow the union's standing committee a "clear run" in decision-making.