Thursday 23 November 2017

Schools set to stay shut on Monday as ASTI talks conclude for the evening

Schools look set to close Monday
Schools look set to close Monday
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Thousands of students will be locked out of secondary schools indefinitely from Monday on health and safety grounds as Asti teachers continue their industrial dispute over pay and conditions.

Officials from the teaching union and the Department of Education held talks today with no sign of a break through as both sides continue to dig their heels in.

They have concluded for the evening and will resume tomorrow but schools are expected to remain closed on Monday.

Neither side seemed hopeful that the dispute would be resolved in time for students to return to school tomorrow after the Halloween break.

It means the row is likely to see many schools remain closed on Monday and Tuesday with parents and students warned of indefinite closures.

Only schools run by principals who are not Asti members will be able to open, as these were the only schools who were able to implement alternative measures.

Teachers on strike outside St Mary's College, Dundalk Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Teachers on strike outside St Mary's College, Dundalk Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Teachers are being advised to turn up for work as normal tomorrow and some schools will be unaffected by the Asti members’ withdrawal from substitution and supervision work.

However, a planned one day strike for Tuesday looks likely to go ahead and it is anticipated this will affect more schools.

Officials in government are angered that they were not given the time to make alternative arrangements to facilitate the reopening of schools after the mid-term holidays.

Meanwhile, union members are said to be unhappy that the department is refusing to budge from its original offer to teachers.

Education minister Richard Bruton said the Asti action will close schools indefinitely.

“It is important to remember that the dispute which is likely to impact on schools from next Monday does not relate to new entrant pay, but to ASTI’s withdrawal from supervision and substitution, which is likely to cause indefinite closures from next Monday.

“At the root of this dispute is ASTI’s unilateral withdrawal from carrying out the 33 ‘Croke Park Hours’ per year.”

Asti President Ed Byrne said expecting members to undertake supervision and substitution work for no pay while their colleagues in other teacher unions are receiving a payment is unacceptable.

“It was always inevitable that deducting pay from ASTI teachers for supervision and substitution work would lead to a withdrawal from this work,” he said.

“We made this clear to the Department as early as July of this year. Teachers received a commitment under the Haddington Road Agreement that this money would be paid. We delivered on all aspects of the Haddington Road Agreement,” added Mr Byrne.

“The Department’s decision to pursue this course of action is extremely problematic in terms of resolving this dispute.”

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