THE Irish education minister Noel Dempsey has taken a major political gamble by appealing over the leaders of the main secondary teachers' union to "sell" a pay proposal directly to members.
His decision to hold a series of public meetings on the new system of payment for supervision and substition work has infuriated the leadership of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI). It has accused him of meddling in an internal ballot being held this week and recommended that members reject the deal.
Mr Dempsey's move is a last-ditch attempt to get teachers to provide the type of "cover" they used to do voluntarily. They banned the work last March as part of their 30 per cent pay campaign and temporary non-teaching staff have been doing it since for 38 euros (pound;26) an hour. Now this expensive arrangement could become permanent.
A deal was accepted by the three teacher unions towards the end of last year. They were offered a pensionable payment of around 1,400 euros (pound;950) annually for 37 hours a year supervision and substitution.
But the ASTI does not accept ministers' interpretation of the agreement. It believes that periods when teachers are on call - but not actually working - should count towards the 37 hours total.