You Won’t Believe What the Minister for Education Said About The ASTI Strike 39


I've never been one to go with the flow, to accept that just because 'everyone else' is doing something, I should also do the same. If you are part of the crowd, you might think me contrary or difficult. Of course, if you are more independent-minded, you might just think my position is okay.

Neither of these points of view is necessarily correct. For my part, something either makes sense or it doesn't. I test ideas, events, opinions etc. against my world view, my knowledge and my reasoning. I am always accutely aware of my biases and how they may colour my point of view. But if something makes sense to me, then that becomes the logic by which I live.

Occasionally, this doesn't make another person wrong; it's just that they have a different opinion, and this is ok. So, is Enda Kenny a good Taoiseach? Well, that's a matter of opinion. We may agree, we may disagree; neither of us is correct, neither of us is incorrect. Anything that is open to interpretation cannot be a fact.

Ocassionally, the other person is completely, 100%, totally and utterly wrong. Is the ASTI wrong to withdraw from Supervision and Substitution work?

No.

Is the ASTI responsible for the possibility that schools will close when the ASTI stops doing Supervision and Substitution work.

No.

I'll explain further, but one caveat.

If something makes logical sense I have no choice but to accept it regardless of how I feel about it. Of course, logic can be twisted, but if I cannot come up with a better argument against a position, I have to concede, and would do so happily. So, is a car a better mode of transport than a motorbike? Well, there are arguments on both sides. But no matter how cool that Ducati looks, a car wins everytime.

All this hypothetical of course, but at some point, an individual has to make a choice between the sometimes brutal reality of the honesty of a particular situation, or just bury their head in the sand an hope it all goes away. Feelings are important, but often they are *just* that and do not resolve conflict. Conflict resolution requires clear-headed strategies, and preferably ones that reduce the problem space while avoiding fragmentation.

So it may be that the ASTI is in the wrong, but I haven't heard a reasonable argument to support this assertion. If I find one, I will change my mind. Arguments that the ASTI negotiators are inexperienced, that they need to make an offer, that the public *might* be aggravated by the ASTI action does not make the ASTI complaint less valid.

The Minister and the government have said and done things that are wrong and this is why schools will close. As you read, remember that the government manages schools not from a perspective of what makes sense educationally, but rather what makes sense to them from a political and/or economic perspective. But usually political.

So this is the problem.

The ASTI agreed to do the Croke Park Hours. Regardless of how teachers feel about them, ASTI members agreed to them. Arguments that they are useless or unproductive are secondary to the agreement and are insufficient a reason to withdraw from them. However, the fact that they exist, and crucially, that they are unpaid, means that they are a bargaining chip should another reason precipitate a disagreement.

The ASTI signed up to the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA). This agreement extended the Croke Park Agreement, that is, the ASTI agreed to this extension. As part of the HRA, the ASTI agreed to additional Substitution and Supervision (S&S) work. This work was to be unpaid. The ASTI agreed to this. However, the HRA contained a provision that there would be a small payment (less than the minimum wage I might add) for the S&S work in three years - half in the school year 2016-2017 and the second half in 2017-2018.

It is important to note that the HRA had sectoral components, that is, specific provisions for different parts of the public sector - health, education, policing etc.

hra-s-and-s-provision

Haddington Road S&S Provisions

lra-components

Thou Shalt Not Strike

Then, the government drew up a new agreement to extend the HRA. This new agreement, called the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), effectively neuters every Union's ability to call a strike eventhough the ability to strike is THE bargaining chip of all unions. On top of that, the LRA also effectively demands that unions cooperate with every 'performance' demand of the government.

For the ASTI, this would mean rolling in behind the new Junior Cycle.

Bear in mind the extensive cuts that have happened in schools and the disproportionate impact these have had on the disadvantaged. Consider that the Department of Education promised to fully fund the implementation of the new Junior Cycle, that is, fully resource it in each school. Now, reflect on the contradiction between the cutbacks in education, such as the increase in the pupil-teacher ratio, the cutbacks in support for Traveller Education etc., and the promise to fully fund the Junior Cycle. So, Virginia, you understand why there are trust issues.

And then, notwithstanding the secrecy and lack of consultation with teachers regarding the new Junior Cycle (yes, the facts speak to this), the ASTI was getting stick from not doing something about the different rates of pay for new entrants. So, Virginia, there were several straws piling up on the camel's back. And we all know what happens when you neglect your relationships, don't we...

....So the government asked the ASTI to accept the LRA. And because if something is worth blowing up, it's worth blowing up well and truly, the government said that if the ASTI didn't accept the LRA, then ASTI teachers wouldn't get the S&S money they were promised when they agreed to the HRA. So the ASTI said if the government doesn't keep its promise and won't pay us for S&S, teachers wouldn't do S&S. Teachers voted overwhelmingly to endorse this position.

So I voted to stop doing S&S. I was promised I would be paid for it. I wasn't being paid for it. I'd have to be mad to keep doing it.

The Minister for Education says he will pay teachers if they sign up to the LRA. But this was not the agreement. The government was supposed to pay teachers for agreeing to the HRA. Can teachers really trust anything the government says if the government doesn't respect the process? 

 

The point is, you honour your agreements. I did my S&S work; I was asked to do it free for 3 years in the interests of the country and I did. I was told if I did this I would get a small payment. Now I want to be paid for it. Simples.

The Minister says S&S is part of teachers' core duties. Well, it's not. Firstly, teachers don't have a contract specifying their duties (this is a good thing for teachers, parents and the government alike). Notwithstanding this, we are currently not paid for S&S so by defintion it cannot be a core duty. Secondly, not every teacher does S&S (some were allowed to opt out of it when it was introduced), so again, by definition, it is not a core duty.

If the Minister had paid me for S&S as he was supposed to under our agreement (HRA) I would still be doing it, regardless of whether or not it was a 'core duty'.

The Minister says all the other unions have signed up to the LRA and it is not reasonable for the ASTI to be outside the agreement everyone else accepted. Well, that's great for those unions but that doesn't make the LRA a good agreement for the ASTI members, especially those suffering unequal pay. Just because every other union is doing it doesn't mean teachers should too. The LRA has to stand on its own merits and so far, it doesn't look like it can. The fact is, it is a blunt and poor instrument and should be scrapped immediately.

Pay me for my S&S work, then invite me to the new agreement.

The Minister has said that there can't be one LRA for all other unions and a different one for the ASTI. But clearly there has been an edit of the LRA to facilitate the TUI and INTO. Arguably, this was the government playing politics with the situation rather than being an honest broker.

The government says the agreement with the Garda Representative Association (GRA) doesn't change the LRA. Read one way, the GRA Agreement is designed to lure the Gardai into the LRA. Read another way, all the other unions see is the Gardai getting more loot and they want some extra too.

I mentioned in an earlier post that the Gardai are not fools. And they have shown the government that the fool in the room is the LRA. By being a blunt instrument, it is ink wasted on paper. While it refers back to the sectoral provisions of the HRA, it doesn't take acount of changes in the economy since the HRA was introduced by specifically addressing inequalities in different sectors.

So teachers are taking specific strike days to force the government to do what it should have done for the entire public sector - namely, come up with a plan to resolve the issue of unequal pay.

And teachers are refusing to do Supervision and Substitution because we aren't being paid for it. We are still going to turn up to teach but S&S is now the governments monkey and it needs an honest plan to get it off its back.

(So far, the government's plan involves paying non-teachers €19 per hour to do S&S compared to €6 per fortnight they said they would pay teachers but then reneged on!! Go Figure!)

 

The Bigger Picture

Of course the bigger picture is the dysfunctional relationship between the Minsiter for Education and the Department on one hand, and teachers on the other. There are many contentious issues in education at present. The lack of vision to create a system that works constructively for everyone lies at the root of many of the problems. An unwillingness to rise above personalities acts as a barrier to constructive leadership. Without a vision to resolve these issues, education will just limp from one problem to another.

If you have a different logic, or additional information to add further light, wade in below in the comment box, but keep to the issue. I might get long holidays but I don't get overtime or Christmas bonuses or expensed cars etc.


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39 thoughts on “You Won’t Believe What the Minister for Education Said About The ASTI Strike

  • Keith

    Absolutely spot on. My only problem with this very well wrote piece is that you don’t go into the specifics of the unequal pay but merely mention it. If that was included I would be plastering it everywhere for parents and students alike to see very well explained!!
    As a tui member I’m so disappointed we are not backing the asti and strongly feel that the LRA was only accepted by the majority of the TUI that are not secondary teachers because all my colleagues and teachers I’ve spoke to voted against it.

    • Martin Marjoram

      Hi Keith and Peter. No disagreement from me on the issues but a couple of points of fact. A large majority of TUI members are second level teachers. I campaigned in TUI for a second NO vote to the LRA but our Executive voted to recommend it (as part of a supplementary deal negotiated in May) and the ballot was almost two thirds in favour. The only Executive members who campaigned on the NO side were myself and another colleague from the third level of TUI. I suspect my sector may have voted NO but the ballots were not counted separately and we will never know.

      My continuing good wishes to the ASTI. The Government’s decision to renege on its HRA commitments and now lock teachers out of their schools is a disgrace.

  • Eveleen

    As a sna’s where do we stand In all this ? Also if we’re asked or told to do s&s should we not be paid for this ?
    Please advise

  • Jean mc Connell

    An excellent article – any chance the media would actually publish it?
    Bruton keeps harping on about S&S being part of our core duties- to him it seems like the crux of tomorrow’s issue. Would you agree that the DES essentially divided S&S from a teacher’s core duties in 2001 (I think) when they introduced a separate payment for it. Up until then we had all considered it part & parcel of our job. In refusing a pay rise 15 years ago, it was the DES who separated S&S from our core duties. In doing so, did they not shoot themselves in the foot and if so, how have they not been corrected on this issue?

    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Jean, Anything that is not paid cannot be, by definition, part on core duties. We used to do S&S for free. When the government wouldn’t budge on parity-of-esteem pay increase in 2001, having already given rises to Gardai and nurses, we decided we weren’t going to do unpaid work. So we stopped doing S&S until they paid us for it. But they allowed someone to opt out, thereby ensuring it could not logically be core duty.
      When the crash happened, teachers stepped up to the plate and took cuts and worked Croke Park and S&S hours for free, on the understanding and black-and-white agreement that we would get a small payment this school year and next. The government reneged on their agreement. Had they paid us for S&S, then they could argue that it was core, but then there wouldn’t be an issue…..

  • Michael McGrath

    Absolutely brilliant piece of totally factual information. Well done Peter. Can I quote from it if given an opportunity in print media or Radio interviews.
    Regards.
    Michael McGrath ASTI Standing Committee.Rep for Region 7.

  • Stephen Brown

    Excellent article. Many members of the public are struggling to understand the ASTI’s stand point. This outlines everything. I’ll be sure to share it. We’ll done.

  • Ali Healy

    I think it’s also worthwhile noting on the Junior Cert issue that the department have chosen to make both Junior Cert Science and Junior Cert Business Studies common level from this year’s first year students onwards. This means students can no longer choose higher level in either of these subjects. They will be taught to a common level and we all know that means they won’t be challenging to a lot of students. Imagine the wake up call these poor students will get when they go into fifth year higher level chemistry, physics, accounting etc. I think this is a massive mistake and will ruin our system.

  • Áine Uí Fhoghlú

    Excellent presentation of the facts. It is as simple as you say, even a monkey could see the way forward.. but he’d need to be a monkey doing higher level to grasp the concept. Richard & Enda have ability but need to work harder.

  • Margaret King

    Brilliantly put! I wish you would be ASTI spokesperson and get these points across to the general public, it will be a battle of public opinion this week.

  • Fergal Woods

    Those unproductive Croke Park hours appear to be the sum total of Fine Gael’s “educational policy” for lack of a better term. The fallacy that they increase “productivity” is a sop they continuously throw out to appease IBEC and the business community. Mr. Bruton always harps on about creativity and original thinking BUT resorts to a mantra that patently has failed to win over the ASTI. What’s needed is a total overhaul and coordinated approach of education AT ALL LEVELS.
    It’s totally illogical to change Junior Cert and NOT change L.C. But from Quinn on the politicians refuse to see this logic. It is IMMORAL to have different pay rates for the same job. CLASS SIZES at Primary and Secondary are not conducive to good learning and must be reduced. A Commission on DISCIPLINE REPORT has gathered dust for 20 years – because for all their words about prioritising education and cherishing our youth equally Irish politicians don’t want to pay for this and don’t even want to think about it. 3rd LEVEL FUNDING needs to be urgently sorted. REDUCED CAPITATION GRANTS at 2nd level means that Principals who once saw themselves as educationalists are now accountants and financial controllers. The Minister and the media like nothing better than to let the public imagine that disputes are about one issue only. In the case of the teachers this is certainly not so. Inaction by the Dept shows that the real policy on education in this country is ignore problems, do nothing about them and once the public forgets about them – pretend they no longer exist!
    The spin about teachers holding students for ransom WORKS BOTH WAYS as Governments do the same thing and have always used Moral Blackmail against teachers in a much more cynical manner. I’m sure that the Christmas report for Richard Bruton will read “must try harder”. Why does Mr. Bruton persist with Croke Park hours which don’t make a red cent for State coffers and who’s abolition would therefore not cost a penny? I hope the public can see that it would be totally shambolic to try to use something so worthless as a bargaining tool in any industrial dispute !

  • Barbara O Riordan

    I agree 100% but then I would wouldn’t I as I’m a teacher! At least you articulate how I feel. I opted out. Now I’m told my wages will be docked too. It’s ridiculous. I don’t do S&S. I do my job. Even the suggestion of not getting paid is infuriating. I’m sorry they didn’t get parents in to do the S&S. Many eyes would be opened then.

  • Sandra Fay

    Launch 7.30 p.m. Wednesday 16th November Teachers Club, Parnell square
    TUI Grassroots is being established as a Network to promote involvement and participaton in TUI. TUI Grassroots encourages you to get involved in your TUI Branch. A strong union needs an active membership. We also encourage you to join with us in TUI Grassroots in working to make our union leadership more democratic and accountable. It is not a breakaway group and does not seek to persuade members to leave the union. TUI Grassroots believes progressive reform can make TUI more democratic, more transparent and more effective. Officials and executive members of TUI routinely fail to implement the democratic mandates provided by Annual Congress and commitments given to members
    TUI Grassroots demands: The full restoraton of pay and pensions: 1. Equal pay for equal work and an end to casualization 2.
    3. Restoration of the link between pay and pension 4. Reduction in the workloads of teachers and lecturers
    5. State investment in education to be significantly increased and funded through progressive taxaton
    Looking for TUI and ASTI new entrants who will speak on the 16th would be great. If you know anyone in ASTI that would be a help !

  • Niamh Sweeney

    Excellent clear and informative article. The public need to have this information and see it for what it really is. Well done on this

  • Tom McCarthy

    Why aren’t you our spokesman? Have you looked at the new JC English exam? A complete dumb-down. Just listened to Parents’ Council Paul Mooney. He doesn’t understand what it’s all about. Ditto for Carl O’ Brien(IT) and Richard Bruton!

  • Tom McCarthy

    I don’t understand the Croke Park hours focus. By not signing up to the LR diktat, does that entitle us to opt out of them?

  • Judith Thomas

    Love your articles , v refreshing to hear as an Asti member . Just listened to Brian Mooney on the radio talking about his resignation from the Asti . What’s your opinion on what he’s saying about the 33 hours ?

    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Judith, I think I will write something on this. Suffice to say, he is near the end of his career and doesn’t need ASTI protection anymore but I thought he could have avoided the fallacious thinking and taken a more principled stance given what he has said previously about collegiality. Peter

  • Sinead

    Try being a BTEI tutor that requires one to have a full teaching qualification, be a member of the teaching council and have a number of years experience to even get an interview for the job and then five years in still not get a contract (not a single scrap of paper even hinting at a contract), no pay for holidays, no moving up in grades or salary scales and never a guaranteed term of work.

    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Sinead, as you point out, there is a lot that is wrong in the system. S&S is just one issue 9and a fairly minor one considering how little money we were supposed to get. Peter

  • Valerie

    Here’s an interesting conundrum. I am a TUI member. I chose to opt out of S&S. I had never done it in any format or previously and made the decision to sign out. However, the Dept now deducts the S&S payment from my salary each month for something I’m not doing and effectively ‘fines’ me for the previlage. How is that fair. This money goes back to the school to pay for the supervision. I have to pay the government if I chose not to supervise. I don’t do the work – I don’t get paid = fair enough. I don’t do the work – I don’t get paid AND I must pay a fee = NOT FAIR.

    • peterlydon Post author

      Hi Valerie, I think the way this is meant to work is not that you don’t get paid for not doing it, but that someone else has to take up the slack of you not doing it so they basically get you to pay them, rather than the government having to do it. What is interesting is did you have to pay this over the last 3 years when we weren’t being paid for it? If so, I would think this is basically a fine (or theft). Peter