200,000 students shut out as teachers' pay row rumbles on
Up to 80,000 students from 135 schools across Dublin were left out in the cold today with the teachers' pay dispute showing no sign of abating.
The closure of more than half of all second-level schools in the country, on health and safety grounds, is a result of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland's (ASTI) refusal to continue doing supervision and substitution work.
About 200,000 teenage students nationwide are locked out of school indefinitely as the row involving the 17,500-strong ASTI rumbles on.
Parents and students in about 400 schools across the country have no idea when they will reopen.
There is nothing to suggest that the schools will be in a position to resume classes before the end of this week.
Pressure will increase tomorrow when even more second-level schools - about 500 - will be shut by a separate one-day strike by ASTI.
As well as disrupting stud-ents' education, activities such as sporting fixtures and rehearsals for school musicals, which take teachers' away from the classroom, are being cancelled.
The closures and uncertainty are also causing major headaches for working parents, who have to make alternative arrangements for their children's care.
Today's action went ahead after talks between senior Department of Education officials and ASTI leaders ended last night, with no progress reported.
Education Minister Richard Bruton accused ASTI of closing "hundreds of schools indefinitely, as a result of a dispute which essentially relates to one hour a week of additional duties".
Tomorrow's one-day stoppage is linked to a demand for pay equality for new teachers.
Separately, the withdrawal from supervision and substitution arises from the union's rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) and a consequent decision to stop working the 33 Croke Park hours.
ASTI members are alone among public service workers in not continuing to do this extra productivity which, in the case of teachers, amounts to one hour a week.
Because of this, ASTI members are not receiving the benefits of the LRA, including payment for supervision and substitution, which triggered the union's move to withdraw from these duties from today.
Mr Bruton said he was "very disappointed" that ASTI has decided to proceed with its action which would "cause huge disruption".
ASTI has told members to turn up for work today and, if the school is closed, to stay until the end of the first class period.
Where schools are forced to close, ASTI members will not be paid. If a school manages to stay open, ASTI members will be paid, even without doing supervision and substitution .