The leadership of the ASTI second level teachers' union has demonstrated outside the Department of Education this afternoon in protest at what they say is the interference of the Department in the democratic processes of their union.
The union, which rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement, is currently balloting members on whether they should stop doing the 33 Croke Park hours when the current Haddington Road Agreement expires in June.
Yesterday, the Department of Education warned that if the ASTI votes to abandon the 33 extra Croke Park hours, it would be viewed as a repudiation of the Lansdowne Road Agreement, with serious consequences.
At today's protest, ASTI President Máire Ní Chiarba said a week ago, in an address to school managers, the Secretary General of the Department had given misinformation about the union and the way it ran its business.
Referring to yesterday's Department of Education statement, she suggested that the Department was acting out because the last two ballots held by the union had not gone as the Department "would have liked".
She said the union couldn't allow the Department to make outrageous and unsubstantiated claims and not be challenged.
Ms Ní Chiarba said the ASTI was perfectly capable of informing its own members, and that members got full information on every ballot held.
The 33 additional so-called Croke Park hours are used in schools for meetings and talks. Teachers are not allowed do classwork or preparation during this time, and extra-curricular activities with students are also excluded.
They are widely resented by teachers and were referred to by speakers at the union's annual conference last month as "detention for teachers". It was the union's annual delegate conference which called for the ballot of members on ceasing to work the hours.
The Department of Education warning came in a bulletin published on the department’s website yesterday.
ASTI members could be made compulsorily redundant - and in that event they would only receive statutory redundancy payments, the bulletin warned.
By 2020, new teachers would be up to €26,000 worse off, while longer serving teachers would lose up to €31,000.
The annual supervision and substitution payment amounting to €1,592 would not be restored, and increments would be frozen until July 2018.
Improved pay scales for newer recruits would be withdrawn - and they would have to wait four years for a permanent contract, the bulletin added.
Teachers earning over €65,000 would lose out on restoration of pay cuts for higher earners, added the bulletin.
The Department has queried whether the ASTI has given adequate information to members about the consequences of a vote to stop the 33 hours - and has said it has a responsibility to ensure teachers are fully aware of the facts when exercising their democratic mandate.
An ASTI 'Nuacht' newsletter circulated to staff contained details of potential implications of a vote to cease the extra hours - but did not refer to the risk of compulsory redundancy, or the four-year wait for a permanent contract.
The ASTI has defended the information provided to members ahead of the ballot, adding that it will hold further information meetings at branch level.
A spokesperson said the newsletter contained the consequences as prescribed in the FEMPI legislation.
She said issues like compulsory redundancy would be a matter for the Department of Education.