Union ordered to end wrangle

5th December 2003 at 00:00
The Irish Republic's main secondary teachers' union is about to lose its general secretary and has been told to put its house in order, following legal action by head-office staff against their own bosses.

Bitter recriminations between staff and elected officials followed the end of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland three-year pay battle with the government in which it failed to win a 30 per cent pay rise.

The elected officials pinned much of the blame on the general secretary of 13 years, Charlie Lennon, a charge he denies. In an affidavit he referred to persistent bullying, harassment and abuse. He said this included abusive comments, interruptions, gratuitously offensive remarks, lies, and barracking in committee meetings.

He secured a High Court injunction preventing the president and vice-president from proceeding with an investigation into expenses he incurred while on union business on the basis that they had shown bias and ill-will against him.

Mr Lennon's affidavit said there was no substance to the complaint about expenses, that it was vexatious and should not be entertained.

The union has now backed off from fighting a very expensive legal battle in the Labour court against Mr Lennon, and is offering him pound;140,000 and a pension deal to leave.

Staff told the Labour court they were suffering high levels of stress and that some elected officials had continuously demonstrated a lack of respect for their rights as employees.

The Labour court was annoyed that the ASTI officers did not turn up for the hearing - they said they were under legal instructions to stay away because of the general secretary's High Court injunction.

However, the hearing went ahead in their absence and the court ruled that the employees were entitled to operate in a workplace where they could get on with their job without constant threat from elected individuals.

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