herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

250,000 students set to miss school as ASTI holds firm on demands

Teachers outside the locked gates of Colaiste Choilm, Swords
Teachers outside the locked gates of Colaiste Choilm, Swords

A total of 250,000 students will have no school today due to a one-day strike by the Association of Secondary Teachers' of Ireland (ASTI).

Around 500 second-level schools will forced to shut, and about 400 of those schools face the prospect of indefinite closure because of withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties by ASTI members.

Of the 250,000 students locked out of school, 200,000 of those have no idea when they will return to the classroom.

Problems

It is causing major headaches for working parents, who have to make alternative arrangements for their children's care.

Some schools opened yesterday for selected classes and with no sign of a breakthrough, more are considering their options about opening on a partial basis.

However, school management bodies are concerned that if the dispute is protracted and parents become more frustrated, it would be difficult to restrict entry to particular pupils, which would immediately raise issues about health and safety.

ASTI members turned up yesterday to report for duties other than supervision and substitution, but most were locked out because the school was shut on health and safety grounds.

Most schools have not had enough time to recruit supervisors to replace ASTI members in this work, while the union also refused to allow ASTI principals to assist with arrangements.

ASTI teachers in schools that close because of withdrawal from supervision and substitution are off the payroll, but if the school manages to remain open, ASTI members will get paid.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the issue of pay deductions for ASTI members in schools that opened on a partial basis "will be considered having regard to the circumstances of each case".

While today's one-day strike - the second of seven before Christmas - is about seeking restoration of pay equality for new teachers. The indefinite withdrawal from supervision and substitution is linked to the ASTI's refusal to continue to work the 33 productivity hours - one hour a week - as per the Croke Park agreement.

Education minister Richard Bruton said it was "bitterly disappointing that this dispute about working one hour a week... has led to the closures".

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