Education Minister "disappointed" as ASTI teachers vote for industrial action

Ballot could see strike action over lower pay-scale for newly qualified teachers

Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) have voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of industrial action.

The action is in response to lower pay for recently qualified teachers and the worsening of ASTI members’ terms and conditions.

A large majority of union members voted in favour of taking industrial action, “up to and including strike action” on the issue of recently qualified teachers’ pay.

They also voted in favour of action “up to and including withdrawal from supervision and substitution” on ASTI members’ terms and conditions following the union's rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

Education Minister, Richard Bruton said he is "disappointed" with the decision to vote for strike action.

He said dialogue is the only way to end the dispute and he hopes the union will engage with his department on the matter.

In a statement the minister expressed "his willingness to extend the benefits of the recent agreement reached with TUI and INTO on new entrant pay to ASTI members" provided they cooperate with the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

He said the agreement is "worth €135,000 to a teacher over their career."

The statement said Minister Bruton has "repeatedly offered" to suspend the implementation of sanctions against ASTI members for the union's rejection of the Lansdowne Road agreement provided they agree to work the 33 additional hours imposed under the Haddington Road and Croke Park agreements.

The Health Minister, Simon Harris also weighed in on the issue saying it is "crucial" that time is provided to try and resolve the situation: 

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education, Thomas Byrne called on the Minister to step up his negotiations with the ASTI in order to prevent school closures in the weeks ahead.

“Resolving this dispute requires extensive engagement and all parties should re-enter negotiations with the aim of averting school closures. Industrial action will not be in any parties' best interest, including teachers," he said. 

 “We are now faced with the prospect of prolonged industrial action in our schools. Minister Bruton needs to move fast to ensure such industrial action does not close schools and have an adverse effect on second level students.”

Deputy Byrne said the delay in forming a government has allowed the row to deteriorate:

ASTI president Ed Byrne said the ballot demonstrates, “the depth of feeling amongst second-level teachers who have endured years of pay cuts and deteriorating terms and conditions.”

“Teachers do not embark on industrial action lightly and strike action is always a very last resort,” he said. 

The ballot on recently qualified teachers pay was carried by a large eight-to-two majority.

Mr Byrne said teachers starting out in their jobs today are being paid 20% less than the 2010 starting salary.

“New and recently qualified teachers are not only faced with years of casual short-term contracts, but an inferior rate of pay for doing the exact same work as their colleagues,” he said.

“Today’s ballot result demonstrates the sense of injustice amongst teachers at this treatment of new and recently qualified colleagues.”

“It shows that teachers at all stages of their careers are prepared to act in a collegiate spirit and stand up for the most vulnerable teachers in their schools.” 

ASTI vice-president Ger Curtin said it is not fair that younger teachers have been asked to "carry the burden" over the past eight years:

The ballot on teacher's terms and condition was carried with 78% of union members voting in favour of industrial action.

In response to the ballot, the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) have called for a positive atmosphere to be maintained within schools and staff rooms.

“The primary interest of the NAPD is to look after the best interest of all our members, teachers and students,” the association said in a statement.

“We are confident that this issue will be resolved and we are asking that all efforts are made to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion without delay.”

The union's standing committee will meet tomorrow to discuss the implications of the vote and possible forms of strike action.