Schools across the country to close indefinitely from Monday

Talks between the Department of Education and the ASTI ended without agreement this evening

Schools across the country to close indefinitely from Monday

Pictured (L to R) ASTI general secretary, Kieran Christie, ASTI President Ed Byrne, at the Department of Education and Skills. Image: RollingNews.ie

Secondary schools across the country are set to close indefinitely from Monday after negotiations on teacher pay ended without agreement this evening.

Members of The Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) will withdraw from supervision and substitution duties from tomorrow.

Teachers will turn up for work as normal, however the withdrawal from supervision and substitution will leave more than 400 of the country’s 735 secondary schools unable to open for health and safety reasons.

The action will affect some 200,000 secondary school pupils.

The dispute is linked to the ASTI’s decision to stop working 33 additional hours per year as part of the Croke Park pay agreement.

In response to the ASTI decision, the government have applied emergency financial legislation which includes the non-payment of around €800 per year for supervision duties.

The ASTI has said that expecting its members to carry out substitution and supervision work for no pay while colleagues in other unions were being paid is "unacceptable."

The union accused the government of failing to honour a previous agreement to pay teachers for the work.

In a statement this evening the ASTI confirmed that no progress had been made on “key issues” and said it is “regrettable” that tomorrow’s action will go ahead as planned.

It said, the ASTI will “continue to maintain contacts with the Department of Education and Skills tomorrow and in the coming days with a view to resolving the issues.”

The Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton said he is “very disappointed that ASTI have decided to proceed with their action tomorrow.” 

“This will cause huge disruption for 200,000 students - and their parents - with particular stress caused for those in exam years,” he said. 

“ASTI have effectively decided to close hundreds of schools indefinitely, as a result of a dispute which essentially relates to one hour a week of additional duties."

He said the decision is “explicitly not about new entrants pay, but about the Croke Park Hours - one extra hour each week for the 33 weeks of the school year.”

However, ASTI Deputy General Secretary, Diarmaid de Paor said the argument is "much more complex" than a simple disagreement over an extra hour's work each week.

Mr de Paor said very little progress was made in this evening's talks:

In a statement, The Department of Education said all other public servants work additional hours and insisted that "in most cases" they work a greater number than teachers are required to.  

The statement said there is a deal on the table which includes immediate payment for supervision and substitution, a 15% - 22% increase in pay for newly qualified teachers and quicker access to permanent, full-time jobs for newer teachers.

“There is a good deal on the table, and I would again urge ASTI to consider it seriously, so that we can end this dispute and limit the disruption to parents and students,” said Minister Bruton.

“I am also disappointed that the ASTI refused to cooperate with any contingency plans, both not allowing their principals to co-operate, and by not giving schools enough time to advertise, recruit and have external supervisors Garda vetted."

The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents a network of 380 schools, urged both sides in the dispute to “continue talking and to come to a resolution for the sake of all involved.”

JMB General Secretary, John Curtis said the situation is “unfair to thousands of students and their families who will be affected.”

“We must get our schools open and our students back to their normal school routines as quickly as possible,” he said.

“This unsettling period of industrial action is taking its toll on students and on their families.

“It’s time for negotiators to re-engage and to bring an end to the uncertainty without further delay. Students and their families deserve it.”