Rocks and Hard Places

So, here I am posting my ballot for the ASTI and our position on the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA).  This is not an easy decision to make.  We have all kinds of claims and counter-claims going on.

To set some context.  The Croke Park Agreement was due to last until 2014, and the government dumped it.  They signed an agreement, and when it didn’t suit, they binned it.  Naturally, this is a massive problem for anyone looking at the conditions of the HRA.  How long will it last, what of promises contained therein?  If the government can scrap one agreement unilaterally, what’s to stop them doing exactly the same again?  In short, I don’t trust the government to keep its word.

But, is the renegotiated HRA a good deal?  Obviously the full time members of the union think so, they wouldn’t have presented it to the Central Executive Committee (CEC) otherwise.  But that CEC have rejected it, and recommend that we, the members, vote no.

And what will happen if we vote no?

In a remarkable piece of scaremongering, the Department of Education and Skills released numbers outlining how many schools will close, and how much money teachers will stand to lose if they reject the HRA.  The Irish Times and other media have covered this.

  • An ASTI member who votes no will end up on about €660 per month less than a member of the TUI by 2020.
  • An ASTI member who joined after 2011 will have no access to the permanency panel
  • ASTI members in over-quota schools will be liable to compulsory redundancy
  • ASTI schools will have no posts of responsibility restored
  • No commitment to restore salary if the economy improves

And what if we vote ‘YES’?

  • Well, There’s a promise to reverse the cuts in 2017 and 2018
  • There’s a promise to review over-casualisation of the profession
  • There will be discussions on a fairer rostering system for Substitution & Supervision (S&S)
  • There will be discussions on how to make better use of the 33 out of school hours
  • There will be a new pay-scale for teachers who started after 2011
  • Pay increments will be awarded
  • We still get to do the extra out of school hours
  • All ASTI members will have to do S&S, but now members can opt out in return for a pay cut

None of the choices are good.  On one hand it looks like the government is trying to emasculate the unions, and even squeeze the ASTI out totally.  Also, a ‘YES’ vote brings many promises, and, based on what happened to the CPA, I don’t trust this government to keep its agreements.  By outlining the financial cost to members should they vote ‘NO’, the government has resorted to bully boy tactics.

On the other hand, the HRA goes some way towards restoring proper pay to new entrants. This was something which should have been fought earlier.  Think about it.  Just because someone became a teacher after 2011 they are entitled to a lower pay grade.

There is a huge divide among teachers on how to vote.  In her blog, Evelyn O’Connor is going for a ‘YES’ vote, and has been very eloquent in her reasoning for doing so.  Many teacher friends of mine are voting ‘NO’, and are equally eloquent in their reasoning for doing so.

Looking at what this government is capable of, I have no doubt that they will enforce the FEMPI legislation.  I believe that they will go for a full attack on teachers and are willing to close schools in order to enforce these cuts.

My instinct since the vote was announced has been to vote ‘NO’ but now that I’m at it, ‘YES’ seems to be the lesser of the two evils.  Neither vote is positive.  However, on the basis that parity of pay is closer for new entrants, and with the possibility that some elements can be examined I think that I don’t have the stomach for a fight.  I certainly don’t have the financial leeway to take the loss of pay that a strike would bring.

I’m angry, and I feel that the bullies are winning, I feel that in voting yes, I’m complicit in allowing the bullies to win.

There was a great line in Dr. Who’s “The Day of the Doctor”.

  • “We may fail, but at least we will have failed doing what we believe to be right, rather than succeed in doing what we know to be wrong”

I may not have that level of integrity.  However, I have at least made a decision and my vote will be counted.  I hope that there will be a high turnout by my ASTI colleagues, and whatever the vote, we will respect that decision, and stand together.

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