Unions put package forward for ballot


SECOND LEVEL teachers are to vote on the Government's £66.7 million pay and conditions offer next month, after their unions decided yesterday to put the package forward for ballot.

An executive meeting of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) threw out a proposal to reject the deal. However, it also declined to recommend the package to the union's 13,000 members.

The executive meeting of the Teachers' Union of Ireland voted late last night to recommend the deal. A ballot of members will be completed by the end of next month.

Earlier, the TUI president, Mr Tony Deffely, had described the decision of the union's Dublin branch to reject the deal as "hasty, ill informed and inaccurate".

Mr Deffely described comments by Ms Mary Friel, chairwoman of the Dublin branch, as a "preemptive" attempt to polarise opinion before members had the package in their hands.

Ms Friel said yesterday the deal would involve coercion and redundancy of teachers, rather than early retirement. Part time teachers would lose work. She described the increases for post holders as paltry".

The executive of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation has already backed the deal, and starts a ballot on Monday.

The 160 members of the ASTI's central executive council took the decision to refer the package for ballot without a recommendation after a stormy five hour meeting in the Shelbourne Hotel.

A motion calling for the offer to be put to ballot as the best package available" was decisively rejected by the executive. A motion to reject the package was then proposed and debated. However, an amendment deleting the call for rejection was then passed by a margin of about 40 votes and it was decided to put the offer forward without a recommendation.

Many of those urging a rejection of the deal argued that the proposals for revamping the management of schools would cause major problems for teachers, particularly in the secondary sector. Some argued that it would be fairer to maintain the present system of allocating posts of responsibility on the basis of seniority, rather than switching to promotion on merit.

There was also criticism of the proposal that teachers devote an extra 15 hours a year to non teaching activities, such as parent teacher meetings and lunchtime supervision. It was felt that the time already given voluntarily by many teachers was not being taken into account.

The ASTI will now hold a ballot of its 13,000 members between March 11th and 28th. The union has organised a series of five information meetings, starting in Dun Laoghaire this evening.

The package has been welcomed by the National Parents' Council post primary which said it would be of real benefit to students. Its spokesman, Mr Nick Killian, said teachers who were anxious to leave the profession should be given the chance to do so "at the earliest possible opportunity".