ASTI help requested to ensure schools stay open
The Department of Education has asked the secondary teachers' union ASTI to help ensure schools stay open even if they stop doing supervision and substitution work as part of their pay campaign.
Withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties is one of two forms of industrial action on which ASTI members are currently balloting, following their rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
The 18,000 members are also being asked to support strike action on the issue of pay equality for newly-recruited teachers, and the results of both ballots are due on Friday.
If ASTI members stop supervision and substitution work, about 60pc of second-level schools are at risk of immediate closure because of a lack of cover, but the Department and school management bodies are exploring a possible contingency plan.
A recent letter from Department assistant secretary Kevin McCarthy to ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie seeks the union's co-operation on three fronts, including that any threat of action would involve "sufficient notice", and certainly more than the one week required under legislation.
It is reckoned that the Department would need up to eight or nine weeks for the recruitment and vetting of external personnel to do supervision and substitution work.
The union has also been asked to confirm that there would be no bar on principals who are ASTI members getting involved in recruiting or assigning personnel for this work, and that the ASTI would not hinder the activities of those who are recruited.
A Department spokesperson said the outcome of the ASTI ballot could not be presumed, but it was expected that the ASTI would consider the request, if the matter arose following the conclusion of their ballots.