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Teacher unions ASTI and TUI to survey members over potential merger

Presidents of both organisations describe opportunity of amalgamation as ‘seismic moment’ in education

The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) are planning to survey their members to gauge support for a potential merger which would create a single union representing almost 40,000 teachers at second and third level.

Senior officials argue that a larger union would mean that members would “no longer be pitted against each other” and give teachers a stronger voice as a member of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ public services committee.

The Irish Times understands that plans for a survey were recently agreed upon by the leadership of both unions and details are likely to be published shortly.

The survey could pave the way for a formal ballot, at a later date, which is likely to require the support of up to two-thirds of members in each union if an amalgamation is to progress.


Meetings between the ASTI and TUI have involved an examination of both unions’ rule books and a potential structure for a new education union.

The presidents of both unions have previously described the opportunity of a merger as a “seismic moment” in education.

They have said a single union would also need to acknowledge and respect the traditions of each union, while also creating a new body that can face the challenges of today’s industrial relations landscape

Traditionally, the ASTI represented the interests of teachers in voluntary secondary schools — mostly run by religious orders — while the TUI represented teachers in vocational, community and comprehensive schools.

The lines between the two have blurred significantly over the years, especially since a dispute in 2017 when significant numbers of members in voluntary secondary schools switched unions.

Senior TUI members claim they are in a sector which is growing faster due to the expansion of community schools, typically run by State-backed education and training boards.

The ASTI claims, for its part, that its membership is also growing and it has numbers in sectors where it was traditionally underrepresented.

A merger, if successful, would be a remarkable turnaround from a few years ago when tensions flared between the unions amid claims that the TUI “poached” members from the ASTI during a dispute.

In 2021, the ASTI said it received €280,000 from the TUI in a process aimed at bringing an end to the row.

The ASTI argued that more than 1,000 of its members were recruited by the TUI while it was involved in a dispute with the Government in 2017.

ASTI members lost thousands of euro in frozen pay and loss of payment for supervision duties due to its “repudiation” of the then Lansdowne Road public sector pay deal.

The TUI remained inside the pay deal and its members were unaffected by financial penalties.

An article in the ASTI’s journal, Astir, in 2021 described the row as “one of the most wretched events in Irish trade union history”.

The ASTI is understood to have initially sought compensation of about €6 million based on the loss of subscription income from teachers who left to join the TUI.

There have been several unsuccessful attempts to progress merger talks over recent decades.

This latest proposal to create a single union was first floated by senior TUI officials in the context of discussions over sectoral bargaining in the current pay deal in May 2022.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent