ASTI president hints at possible deal to stop school closures next month

It remains unclear whether hundreds of schools will be able to re-open after next week's mid-term break

ASTI president hints at possible deal to stop school closures next month

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The president of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) has hinted that a short-term deal could be reached to stop further closures of secondary schools.

Some 18,000 members of the ASTI union were out on strike today, forcing up to 250,000 secondary students to stay home. 

Six more strike days are scheduled for the coming weeks, from November 8th to December 7th, while ASTI members plan to also withdraw from supervision and substitution duties. 

The ASTI president said all sides need to sit down and negotiate a short-term deal to prevent further closures of secondary schools.

Ed Byrne said the union might agree to temporarily suspend the withdrawal if it is offered better terms on contracts for recently qualified teachers.

He said the withdrawal could be temporarily suspended if recently qualified teachers are offered permanent contracts after two years of work, instead of four.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton again said there was a substantial deal on the table which addresses the issue of pay for newly qualified teachers.

He said a permanent solution needs to be found:

Meanwhile, members of Ireland's other two main teachers unions, the Irish National Teacher's Organisation (INTO) and the Teacher's Union of Ireland (TUI), held a rally outside Leinster House this afternoon calling for an end to separate salary scales for teachers.

INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said her members are no less committed to pay parity than the ASTI but said the INTO and TUI are using a different strategy of securing gains wherever possible.

"The Croke Park Agreement was a collective agreement designed to prevent further damage being done to public servants generally," she said.

"Our members at that stage - having already had industrial action - clearly voted to provide some shelter from compulsory redundancy and indeed further pay cuts."

ASTI teachers on the picket line today said they do not want to strike but claim the government has left them with no other option. 

The Department of Education wants the ASTI to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement on public pay.

However, Pat, who teaches at Pobalscoil Neasain in Baldoyle in Dublin, claims they are being bullied:

Today's industrial action has seen ASTI members in more than 500 secondary schools around the country downing tools in a row over a series of issues, including equal pay.

At least six more strike days are in the pipeline.

It is also unclear whether hundreds of schools will be able to re-open after next week's mid-term break, because of problems with supervision and substitution.

The Department of Education say 507 schools out of 735 closed today, with 228 remaining open.

The breakdown is as follows:

  • Voluntary secondary JMB - 374 closed out of 375, with one school remaining open
  • Community and Comprehensive ACCS - 91 closed out of 95, with four schools remaining open
  • ETB schools - 42 closed out of 265, with 223 remaining open (predominantly TUI schools)

In a statement Wednesday, the department said both sides agreed that talks should continue and will meet again on Friday - with a view to agreeing a series of further engagements next week.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said: "I am disappointed by the decision of the ASTI to take industrial action which will close schools unnecessarily.

"There is a deal on offer to ASTI which would see pay increases of 15% and 22% for new entrant teachers, with further benefits in terms of working conditions, and a route to further possible improvements after that through the Public Pay Commission.

"It would not be equal or fair for us to conclude sectoral deals with particular groups of public servants to the exclusion of other groups of public servants."

Earlier, Rebecca Hemrych of the National Parents Council Post Primary told Newstalk Breakfast that parents need to prepare for the worst.

"It looks like it's not just going to be one day.

"I think parents have to take it and organise themselves, unfortunately, for the...other six days that are going to come that the strike is going to go ahead".

And she said both Junior and Leaving Certificate classes could suffer if this continues:

Ed Byrne, the ASTI president, had this message for parents who might be fed up with what is going on: