Friday 18 August 2017

Schools open as ASTI calls off action for talks

Teachers Laura Dunne and Deirdre Brennan with hot drinks and food donated by local parents on the picket line at Moyle Park College, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Teachers Laura Dunne and Deirdre Brennan with hot drinks and food donated by local parents on the picket line at Moyle Park College, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Katherine Donnelly and Ralph Riegel

Second-level schools are open again today after the teachers' union, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), called off its action to allow for peace talks.

The union is suspending both its one-day strikes and its withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties, which was set to close hundreds of schools today.

It will draw a huge sigh of relief from students, parents, school managers and teachers themselves, many of whom were losing money for every day they were out of school.

Education Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the move, which emerged after a meeting of the ASTI governing body, its 23-member standing committee.

The ASTI said its members would be available for teaching and supervision and substitution duties today and for the duration of the talks, which are expected to continue through November.

The teachers' union said it expected all second-level schools would open today.

School managers immediately set to work to spread the word of the breakthrough to all 735 second-level schools.

The invitation to talks came from Anna Perry, who is both chair of the Teachers' Conciliation Council and director of conciliation services at the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Department of Education said both sides had agreed to meet with Ms Perry to discuss matters of mutual concern relating to the ASTI dispute that fell within the remit of the Teachers' Conciliation Council, which is the forum for negotiating industrial relations issues involving teachers.

The breakthrough came after three days of action by the ASTI, which led to serious disruption for up to 250,000 second-level students.

Yesterday saw the second in a series of seven planned one-day strikes that closed 500 schools.

Meanwhile, since Monday, the ASTI had also withdrawn from supervision and substitution duties on an indefinite basis, with hundreds of schools closing as a consequence because of lack of cover.

The double whammy of industrial action by the ASTI was linked to the union's rejection of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), which started the process of pay restoration in the public service after the austerity era.

Read More: All parties involved had a taste of imminent havoc

Union members voted for one-day strikes in pursuit of pay equality for teachers recruited since 2011, which did not feature in the LRA, but on which progress has since been made.

After rejecting the LRA, ASTI members also refused to continue doing the 33 Croke Park productivity hours in September, saying that the requirement to do them expired with the previous agreement

As a result, the Department of Education did not apply the benefits of the LRA to ASTI members, including payment for supervision and substitution, which triggered their withdrawal from this work.

Irish Independent

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