ASTI Fightback statement on the outcome of today’s ballot September 20, 2013Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.
From the ASTI Fightback Facebook page
ASTI FIGHTBACK statement on the outcome of today’s ballot.
ASTI FIGHTBACK salutes all teachers who have today sent a clear message to the Government/DES that teachers have taken enough. There are many reasons for our rejection of Haddington Road, some of which we outline below.
On 1st July 2013, the Government/DES broke its Croke Park 1 promise not to cut pay before 2014 — despite the fact that ASTI members had, through gritted teeth, complied with every dot and comma of the agreement. For members this was a grievous breach of trust and made any new agreement extremely difficult. How could we believe the pay restoration promises of Haddington Road when the promise not to cut pay was not kept under Croke Park 1? Teachers are unwilling to accept the normalisation of regular pay cuts and changes in working conditions under these so-called ‘social partnership’ agreements.
In October 2012, Ruarí Quinn published A Framework for Junior Cycle on the new Junior Cycle. Teachers were not consulted. Quinn simply pushed us aside. How can any Minister expect to reform the education system without consulting the very people who would have to implement such reform? Teachers do not trust the Government/DES on the new Junior Cycle. We believe it is educationally regressive. It risks leading us down the road of the English education system. The plan to replace the functions of the State Examinations Commission with Standardised Testing in Maths, English and Science will lead to a narrowing of the curriculum and pave the way for the introduction of league tables — with all of the problems they could bring, such as labelling schools as ‘underperforming’ or ‘failing’ schools. The Junior Cycle also had the potential to dramatically increase the workload of already seriously over-burdened teachers. There is a distinct impression among teachers that the Government/DES is exploiting the crisis to radically restructure the education system in a way which will seriously undermine the delivery of a broad general education.
We also rejected the planned introduction of performance management ‘at the level of the individual’ and the linking of increments to performance. We saw this simply as a mechanism to deny increments to teachers who work extremely hard often under very difficult circumstances to try to deliver a quality education to all students in the context of the ongoing cuts to the Education budget. Educational performance cannot be measured like a factory producing commodities. It is a social process whose outcomes are determined by many different factors, not the least of which is the student’s background. As the Government continues to implement its austerity policy, driving more and more families into unemployment and poverty, more and more students are suffering from the impact of deprivation at home, and this is having a knock-on effect in the classroom.
Teachers have always given very freely of our time, particularly in relation to extra curricular activities, such as training school teams. In that context, we deeply resented the fact that we had to do an additional 33 hours’ non-teaching work, which meant having to stay back after school on a regular basis for meetings which were often not very educationally worthwhile. This was and is having a serious impact on our productivity in the classroom, reducing time for lesson preparation and leading to fatigue and burnout. The notion, under Haddington Road, that these hours would be maintained and that the S&S hours would be increased from 37 to 43 hours — without pay — was simply unacceptable to us.
The situation of non-permanent teachers in the education system, particularly at second level, is truly appalling. 29% of ASTI members are on some form of temporary or part-time contract. Such a level of casualisation is totally unacceptable. The notion that an ‘expert group’ would be set up under Haddington Road to investigate this was deeply disingenuous when everyone knows that casualisation in the teaching and lecturing professions is in fact Government policy — which the Government could change overnight if it wished to do so.
The Government/DES has repeatedly and relentlessly attacked new entrants for cuts in pay and conditions additional to those suffered by pre-2011 teachers. Haddington Road would have maintained a gap of 7.5% between pre- and post-2011 teachers over the next 20 years. This was simply unacceptable. New entrant pay must be restored to the pre-2011 salary scale, with all teachers on the same scale.
We saw the serious implications under Croke Park 1 of not being free to take industrial action. Under that agreement, the Government attacked new entrants and introduced new inferior sick leave and maternity leave arrangements for teachers. We could not respond because we were tied into an industrial peace clause. Under Haddington Road, we would have had our hands similarly tied and would have had to stand by as the Government/DES continued to dismantle teachers’ pay and conditions, as well as the education system itself (e.g. the new Junior Cycle, School Self-Evaluation, increases in the pupil-teacher ratio etc.)
Finally, all right-thinking trade unionists were incensed at the Government’s introduction of the FEMPI Act 2013, the emergency legislation that has given the Government special powers to unilaterally cut pay and conditions of public servants. This was a step too far for ASTI members and we voiced our concerns loud and clear both outside the Dáil on the day Labour ministers voted in favour of the legislation, and at the ICTU conference in Belfast. At present ASTI stands as one of the few trade unions that can genuinely claim to stand in the tradition of Larkin in standing up to the bullying of the employers (the Government/DES among them) in this country. We call on other trade union members to reject the sellouts of their leaderships and break out of the Haddington Road agreement and join the opposition to the Government and its ongoing policy of dismantling the pay and conditions of all workers, public and private, in this country.
As we await Monday’s Standing Committee meeting, which will decide our next course of action, we once again pay tribute to all teachers who have found the courage to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!” Thanks also to all of those who took part in ASTI FIGTBACK’s campaign which helped to promote the No vote.