The dispute involving the secondary teachers’ union the ASTI which threatens to cause disruption in schools across the country from tomorrow (Wednesday) is as a result of the flawed decision to pursue a “divide and conquer strategy with side deals and sweeteners which poisoned the process from the outset,” according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming.

Deputy Fleming said negotiations on similar agreements in the past involved the Irish Congress of Trade Unions as an umbrella body for the public sector unions.

Deputy Fleming commented: “I do not want to see any school face disruption as a result of industrial action. However I believe much of the blame for any disruption lies entirely with Minister Howlin. He was the architect of the Haddington Road Agreement and his colleague Minister Quinn is now seeking to bully and threaten ASTI members into submission. When the first attempt to agree a successor to the Croke Park Agreement failed, Minister Howlin set about picking off different sectors of the public service and different unions, one at a time. Side deals were done behind closed doors, sweeteners were offered and where that didn’t work, threats were made. He sought to pitch public servants against one another.

“We know that special deals were agreed in secret with some sectors and not others. However, despite being the Minister in charge of Freedom of Information, Brendan Howlin is unwilling to release any such correspondence to the public. The Haddington Road Agreement is a matter of public record. If the Minister believes in accountability and transparency he should have no problem with these details being in the public domain.

“The fact that the first response from Minister Quinn to news of potential industrial action was to threaten compulsory redundancy for teachers shows a blatant disregard for the professionalism of teachers on the part of a Minister who some people regard as politically untouchable.

“If Minister Howlin thinks he can hold this agreement together without the good will of public servants he is sorely mistaken. What is required now is a proactive, conciliatory approach from both Minister Howlin and Minister Quinn to avoid disruption in our schools and further distrust between the government and public servants.”