Although they stopped short of backing strike action, delegates overwhelmingly backed a protest at the Dáil on the first day of the upcoming public sector talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement. TUI and INTO members will be invited to the protest.
Delegates also backed a motion to ballot for strike action in the new school year if the talks fail to deliver equal pay for equal work.
The ASTI has been under severe pressure, both externally and internally, since members voted No by 52.5–47.5 per cent in a joint Lansdowne Road-Junior Cycle ballot in January 2017.
Externally, the Government has continued to use the so-called Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act (Fempi) to punish the ASTI by threatening members with compulsory redundancy; withholding limited pay restoration; maintaining an increment freeze; and refusing to grant two-year Contracts of Indefinite Duration (CIDs) to ASTI members, making permanency more difficult to achieve.
The Right within the union have made numerous attempts to overturn the 52.5 per cent No vote in the ballot. The main tactic has been to try to get the union to stand down industrial action and thereby ‘un-repudiate’ the Lansdowne Road Agreement. The tactic failed at executive and central executive level but was attempted a third and fourth time at Convention.
The result was the same: the majority of members were not in favour of standing down industrial action at this time, especially in the run-up to the talks. In fact, they voted for limited further action in May and more industrial action in the new school year.
The convention witnessed genuine trade unionism and democracy in action. It shows what can be achieved when members reclaim the union. It is an urgent lesson for all trade unions within ICTU. This is what can break ICTU’s ongoing collaboration with government and offer the prospect of real trade unionism in the public sector in Ireland.