9 March 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

ASTI to rejoin Congress?

It is a little over five years since ASTI pulled out of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, to go it alone in pursuit of a 30% increase in teachers' salaries. At the time figures indicated average pay in the 26 Counties was 28% less than the EU average.

ASTI's campaign over 2000 and 2001 was notable for the complete lack of support it received from other unions. Another blow was the refusal of parents' groups to back them. Despite this, most commentators agree that ASTI came closer to bringing down the Partnership process than any other union at the time.

By now, balloting of the ASTI's 17,000 members will be complete and the result known early next week over proposals from the Central Executive Council to reaffiliate to Congress. An affirmative result is almost inevitable, after the motion to hold a ballot was passed with an overwhelming majority at the union's annual conference in April. A similar motion was heavily defeated in 2003.

One positive element out of this however, is that it clears one of the major stumbling blocks to the coming together of the three teaching unions. The formation of a single teaching union has been a point of discussion for a number of years.

FÁS ballot over decentralisation

SIPTU is balloting members in FÁS over the state training agency's refusal to abide by its own consultation procedures regarding decentralisation. The Labour Court ruled last month that the agency had breached procedures.

Management says it has accepted the Labour Court ruling but is pressing ahead with its plans. It has told SIPTU that it will be setting up a relocation unit for the Head Office in Birr.

So far only 51 out of nearly 400 Head Office staff have applied for a transfer to Birr, and of the 51 applicants 23 are new recruits who had to agree to relocation in order to be employed by FÁS.

SIPTU branch secretary Greg Ennis said today, "The decentralisation programme is voluntary but management is effectively coercing personnel by engaging in promotional blackmail."

Lecturers' strike

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson has thrown his support behind striking FE and HE Lecturers in their attempt to secure equality in pay and conditions. Commenting upon the strike, Ferguson, said: This AUT strike is supported by NUS/SUI who believe that Lectures will not be motivated if they are treated differently from others in the teaching profession.

Hain confirms short term support for TriVirix

In the course of his meetings at Downing Street on 2 March, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams raised the issue of the TriVirix company with Peter Hain.

Hain confirmed that the British Government would provide enough money for the company to continue trading for one month.

Adams said: "It is important that every effort is now made to ensure that a buyer is found for the company within the next four weeks."

Partnership talks stalled

As An Phoblacht goes to press, talks are continuing between employers and unions in an effort to cobble together a new national pay deal, but reports from within the ICTU and in the media over the weekend point to a diminishing likelihood of success.

Unions have focussed their main demands on new legislation and regulations to protect employment standards and to prevent the race to the bottom seen most obviously in the Irish Ferries dispute.

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