Why teachers should vote no to ‘Croke Park 2’

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In the next few weeks Irish teachers will be asked to vote on new proposals on their pay and conditions which emerged from negotiations between public sector unions and the government. The ASTI’s Standing Committee has recommended that members vote no to these proposals and I want to outline why.

First some context
After two weeks of circling each other the details of an agreement were negotiated on the last weekend in February. In the last 48 hours details of the proposals began to emerge and were made public on February 25. Standing Committee met on Wednesday February 27 and deferred a decision on a recommendation to the following week. Having widely consulted members and received clarification from the government side on some but not all areas we had questions on, Standing Committee categorically decided to recommend to members that they reject the proposals as presented.

The details of the proposals

CUTS TO SALARIES
Teachers who earn in excess of €65,000 will receive a 5.5% cut on their whole salary and allowances, this rises to 8% for the highest earning teachers who are mainly in managerial positions.

SUPERVISION AND SUBSTITUTION
Previously teachers were paid for opting to timetable 37 hours of S&S p.a. or one hour thirty minutes maximum per week. Now EVERY teacher will have to agree to be effectively ‘on call’ for 49 hours p.a. or two hours fifteen minutes per week for no payment and without the possibility of opting out. The extra 45 minutes will have to be used for substitution and can now be used to cover uncertified leave and official school business or the first day of certified sick leave, death in family leave, force majeure leave or illness in family leave. Teachers will have to be placed on rota to cover five periods instead of three.
The proposals state that anyone who is hit by a pay cut and the loss of S&S will only be hit once, though how this to be achieved is unclear.
There is no clarity on what will happen to the pension payments some teachers made from the allowance for S&S over the last decade or more.
Payment will cease from September 2013, if the proposals are accepted.

INCREMENTAL PAY
For those teachers earning less than €65,000 there will be two 15 month incremental periods starting next September, instead of an increment being paid in September 2014, for example, it will be paid in December 2014, and the following increment will come in March 2016.
For those earning between €65,000 there will be a freeze on increments for three years.
It is also worth noting that for job-sharers the cuts and freezes will calculated on a whole time equivalent salary.

NEW ENTRANTS
It seemed that one of the positives from the talks was some rowing back on the cuts suffered by new entrants in recent years. Adjustments have been agreed to their incremental pay scale which will be significant over a whole career. This is the only pay rise for any group in the negotiations. However, it has to be said that new entrants will also lose S&S payments and those who rely on casual work will be squeezed by the changes to what S&S can be used for.

FIXED TERM TEACHERS’ PANEL
A positive from the new arrangements would be the securing of a panel system for the redeployment of fixed term teachers. When CIDs have been agreed and the existing redeployment scheme is dealt with fixed term teachers could then avail of redeployment.

CROSSOVER OF TWO AGREEMENTS
The proposals are on top of Croke Park 1, so the 33 hours, parent-teacher meetings out of school time etc. will continue as before.

PENSION LEVY
A reduction from 5% to 2.5% for the lowest €15,000 to €20,000 band, a saving of €110 p.a.

RETIREMENT
The DES has agreed to allow teachers to retire before August 31 2014 on their pre-cut pension and lump sum, but of course that too depends on the outcome of a ballot.

So, why vote no?
For those who face pay cuts we have essentially clarified that we don’t have or won’t get the clarity necessary for them to make an informed decision. The best we can say is the cuts will apply for the length of any agreement. The worst we can compemplate is that before the end of this proposed agreement the government will come asking for more, that’s what happened with ‘Croke Park 1’.
The S&S cut is an onerous pay cut for those who used to do it; for those who didn’t it is a dramatic change to their conditions of work, in fact it’s a significant change for all of us because the commitment is no longer voluntary, remember that some objected to the idea of supervising at all back in 2002 because they wanted to just teach.
New entrants are offered about a third of the cuts they’ve suffered in the past two years (15-20%), but for many of them the inequity between their incomes and those of the 2010 entrants still rankles. They will also lose out on S&S payments and for those struggling to find work, opportunities for a day here and there to teach will be gone with the extension of S&S to cover almost all kinds of absence.
For fixed term teachers there is a benefit in this document, in theory, and the negotiators should be commended in delivering something for them; but don’t be quick to jump for joy, only after every other group is considered for redeployment will this growing number of fixed term teachers who must move from school to with no tenure each year receive any stability.

The cuts in education so far have been imposed; it seems to me that these proposals document are a new dawn​ because if we are to agree to these changes we are inviting the cuts. For the first time in our history trade unions have been asked to place pay cuts on the table for their members. The hope of those who support the proposals seems to be that this will be the last time we are asked to forfeit pay and conditions ‘in the national interest’. This is also an erosion of the conditions of work of teachers, conditions that, once gone, will be nigh on impossible to win back. There is no doubt that the move is on towards a set school day which will include S&S and ‘Croke Park hours’.
If trade unions decide in a ballot that they don’t want it, the government has signalled its intent to ignore that democratic decision and legislate for pay cuts anyway. Some ‘deal’! People vote with a gun to their heads. Those selling the proposals as the only show in town need to remember that leadership though isn’t about slicing up trade unions into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ camps, or diving teachers into those who’ll lose a bit and those who’ll lose more, leadership is about​ making sure honesty for all workers in other sectors in how they are advised.

What next?
A ballot will be held of all members, the deadline for return of ballots is April 12th.

We need to plan; the clearest thing we know today is what will happen if members vote yes, but we must be ready if and when the document is rejected. To that end Annual Convention will discuss the proposals in full on April 1 next.

Teachers, all teachers, will be worse off after this deal. For the preservation of our pay and conditions, for our profession, for the opportunity to stand up and say no more, these are proposals we have to reject.

Fintan O’Mahony
Standing Committee, Region 8
Natnif2@yahoo.ie
Twitter.com/levdavidovic

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