Over the summer there has been a rewriting the history of the ASTI. Members have been given several lines of argument on why we find ourselves where we are now. Let’s fact check those lines.
Line one: Cuts to the pay of new entrants were imposed over the heads of unions
The Croke Park Agreement was accepted by a ballot of ASTI members in February 2011 by a margin of 2:1. It clearly stated that it applied to serving teachers only. There has been an attempt to airbrush this from history but even if one checks the extensive Q&A on the ASTI website, no-one asked about that word serving. Uncomfortable, but subsequent to the union accepting this agreement, FEMPI enabled the cuts to entrants pay.
Line one is not accurate.
Line two: this dispute is all about Pay Equalisation
Standing Committee set up a sub-committee to devise a strategy on pay equalisation and agreed to put the return to a single basic pay scale and the reinstatement of cuts to allowances at the heart of every negotiation. (This is what led to changes to the pay scale in HRA and the Ward report on the issue of casualisation in teaching, more below). There was an unwillingness among some on Standing Committee and CEC to take action to support new entrants, even after further cuts to allowances in 2012. One comment I noted from the time summed up their mood: ‘why should we go to a student demo, they’re not even ASTI members’. The contrary view consistently advanced at Standing Committee and CEC (e.g. someday one of the new entrants will be sitting around this table making decisions about your pension) was brushed aside, as was most of the work of the sub-committee. The procrastination of the ASTI in finding a solution on Junior Cycle Reform, HRA, or LRA, along with the delay in appointing a new General Secretary have all meant that pay equalisation never appeared on the agenda of Standing Committee in 2014 or 2015. I checked. It was discussed, but it was never of sufficient urgency to make it an agenda item.
Line two is false.
Line three: if only HRA hadn’t prevented us from taking action
Before the ballot on HRA there were those on Standing Committee who wanted to vote no to HRA and still not go on strike: it is further spin for those people to now claim that they wanted to vote no in 2013 so they could go on strike. It is amazing that our negotiators squeezed more out of HRA than any other union without a single day of strike. In December 2013 actually made contingency arrangements for strike action if HRA was rejected but that if further talks were available following a rejection the ASTI would enter those talks. This is no longer the position the ASTI takes on these matters as evident by the decision of Standing Committee on July 8th not to accept the DES invitation to temporarily lift its Directive on Croke Park hours in advance of the outcome of talks with the INTO and TUI on new entrants pay, which are already at an advanced stage.
Line three is disingenuous at best.
Line four: the Government never gave us a panel so they reneged
The panel promised under HRA was to deal with casualisation in the teaching profession. The Ward Report which took effect in a circular in early 2015 was actually an improvement on the proposals from HRA, providing a teacher with a CID after two years instead of three. Peter Ward said: ‘these proposals for a further Supplementary Panel are effectively superseded by the recommendations set out earlier in this report. The recommendations in this report, if implemented, would obviate the necessity of introducing a Supplementary Panel as proposed in the Haddington Road Agreement.’ There were 1000 CIDs awarded in September 2014, and 1800 in September 2015: the impact of Ward is clear and will lead to further reductions in the number of teachers on fixed term contracts in the years to come. The latest circular from the DES removes this possibility for ASTI members on fixed term contracts as a result of the repudiation of LRA.
Line four is a smokescreen for those who want to say nothing came out of HRA.
Line five: the dispute is all about the Government breaking the deal
To claim, as several public statements have, that the government has reneged on its side of HRA is to ignore the advice given to Standing Committee following a meeting in October attended by the General Secretaries and Presidents of both ASTI and TUI with senior officials from the DES and DPER that ‘standing still’ and doing nothing would mean that by default the provisions of LRA would be applied to ASTI members.
It is the ASTI that reneged on the agreements by balloting to withdraw from CP hours. For people who liked doing nothing for years on new entrants pay (see above) to suddenly claim that doing something is the right course and in the process actually proportionately disadvantage those same new entrants and then say they are doing it to help new entrants is difficult to even write it is so mind alteringly confusing.
Line five is either a deliberate attempt to mislead or willfully disregards the warnings given well in advance.
Line six: S&S money should be paid even if teachers don’t do S&S
The restoration of the payment in two stages is permanent and pensionable for every teacher, whether you did or do S&S or not. It has also been claimed that HRA is silent on the restoration being conditional on signing up to future agreements, but how can anyone expect to be paid a pensionable payment for S&S over the rest of their career for not doing S&S? The loss of this payment is not a result of the official side breaking HRA, but the natural conclusion if ASTI members choose not to do the work.
Line six does not make sense.
Line seven: There are no consequences of being outside a pay agreement
As early as last November Standing Committee discussed at length the consequences staying outside LRA, the outgoing General Secretary provided a detailed document on the topic. For people to now claim they were threatened during the ballot period is to say they were not listening when all possible consequences were fully aired six months before. Furthermore, some of these consequences were deliberately withheld from members during the ballot period on Croke Park Hours by a decision of CEC. So last October, repeated in December and April the list of consequences included in the latest circular were made very clear, it is not surprising therefore that they now appear in a circular.
Line seven is untruthful.
A few other things:
Fighting an industrial relations war on several fronts will wrap LRA, Junior Cycle and New Entrants Pay into one process and will invite, in the end, a solution that involves movement on one in exchange for giving something on another.
It also has to be said that even now, when the ASTI has set itself against a solution, the Minister is still willing to discuss the issue, but the leadership has decided there is nothing to be gained by talking.
The line about rejecting ‘one size fits all agreements’ is a precursor to withdrawing from ICTU, and this is yet another thing that will get in the way of restoring all teachers to a single pay scale.
The attempt to brush away FEMPI by saying the ASTI will challenge its legality is to ignore the fact that legal advice to Standing Committee three years ago said a challenge would be exceptionally costly and ultimately futile. It is also worth remembering that S&S payments and restarting incremental credit can only be achieved through the amendment of FEMPI, so claiming to have a strategy to take action to recover those payments while challenging the existence of FEMPI is not logical.
CEC member 2003-16
Standing Committee 2011-16
ASTI member since 1993
Responses/comments welcome as always