I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that we are now very close to a crisis in our secondary schools. This week members of the ASTI will undertake the first of seven proposed strikes. This action has been flagged for quite a while.
Before I go any further allow me to state my own belief – this is a totally justified strike. I am proud to be a member of a union where we are standing up for our (mostly) younger members.
At the ASTI conference in March delegates listened to newly-qualified teachers who are paid less for the same work. They are on a different pay scale, and are losing thousands of Euro a year simply because they had the misfortune to become a teacher after 2011.
(For clarity, it’s not just the different pay scale – it’s the fact that degree allowances are now gone. All this when the same teachers have to train for longer -a 2 year master’s degree on top of a primary degree being a basic requirement).
Following this, the members present voted overwhelmingly to support industrial action if the government did not restore pay parity for new teachers by September. Of course there was no move, and the union has taken the action mandated by its members last March.
So, this action is hardly a surprise, is it? The only possible surprise is that the union decided to take such a strong action in support of NQTs.
However, this is not the only action we’re facing at the moment. ASTI members are not going to cooperate with Supervision and Substitution from November 7th.
Last year, the members of the ASTI voted not to become part of the Landsdowne Road agreement – we would complete our obligations under the Haddington Road agreement, but did not see enough of benefit in the Landsdowne Road agreement to make it worthwhile to sign up for it.
This meant that we would no longer undertake the famous Croke Park Hours. Those punitive hours that were regularly denounced as being unproductive (especially seeing as out-of-school activities did not count).
Once the Haddington Road agreement ended and the ASTI did not join Landsdowne Road the government had what could be described as a hissy fit. Though their actions may also be described as those of a bully. Younger ASTI members were targeted specifically with having to wait 4 years for a CID, and the part-offer of removing the post 2011 payscale was rescinded.
Then things got nasty. Part of the Haddington Road agreement was that the government would return S&S pay to teachers. It was removed from ASTI members in a clear breach of that agreement.
The union response is this – you promised to return payment for S&S, you broke the promise, so we won’t do S&S from November 7th. This has the potential for far more disruptive than the 7 strike days. We face the possibility of the indefinite closure of a number of schools from that day. The biggest crisis to face schools in my lifetime.
And this particular dispute could have been avoided – but for the actions of a government determined to bully.
These are two huge fights to be taking on – and it will take a lot of determination and energy to succeed.
Even if we win there are still a number of issues between the ASTI and the government:
- The Junior Cycle Campaign
- Posts of Responsibility
- Class Size
Some members of the ASTI have been vocal in stating that these are too many fights to take on. These voices need to be taken seriously – there is sense in being strategic in how we deal with these issues when faced with an increasingly hostile government.