Sunday 24 September 2017

Schools unlikely to reopen next week as deadlock rolls on

A candidate may apply to have any exam script, or scripts, rechecked. (Stock picture)
A candidate may apply to have any exam script, or scripts, rechecked. (Stock picture)
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Hundreds of second-level schools remain at serious risk of not reopening on Monday because of the teachers' pay row.

There has been no progress in talks between the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) leaders and senior officials in the Department of Education.

The sides met yesterday and discussions are set to resume today, but there is no sign of a break in the impasse.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Richard Bruton said "at this stage it remains the case that widespread school closures are expected from November 7".

Many secondary schools across the country were closed last Thursday as members of the ASTI took to the picket lines in a row over pay.

But next week's action could escalate matters even further.

About 500 second-level schools could remain closed on Monday arising from the decision by ASTI members to withdraw from supervision and substitution duties as part of their pay campaign.

The withdrawal form supervision and substitution of all, or most, teachers means that schools will have to close on health and safety grounds.

If the action goes ahead, about two in three second-level schools will stay shut, primarily those under the control of the religious, where the ASTI is the union representing teachers.

Deadline

However, schools where both the ASTI and the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) represent teachers may also be forced to close if they don't have enough people to supervise during break times or in the event of teacher absence.

Some schools have tried to recruit external supervisors in order to make up numbers.

But the deadline of November 7 has meant that most did not have enough time to hire, train and vet outsiders for this work.

A number of schools are exploring the possibility of partial opening, such as mornings only or for exam classes only.

The ASTI is alone in the Irish Congress of Trades Unions in having rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA), which started the process of pay restoration for public service workers.

Read More: Forget pay rises, the unions should be focusing on winning greater job satisfaction for the workers

The union is seeking a timetable for an end to two-tier pay scales introduced in teaching at the height of the austerity era.

However, the Government is holding a firm line ahead of the work of the recently-established Public Service Pay Commission.

Having rejected the LRA, the ASTI stopped working the 33 extra hours a year agreed under the Croke Park deal, as a result of which they are not receiving the benefits of the LRA, including €796 a year for supervision and substitution.

On top of accepting the LRA, the other two teacher unions struck a knock-on deal for new teachers, which offers pay increases of up to 22pc for new entrants

Irish Independent

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