Taoiseach urges ASTI to reconsider strike action

Government accused of “bully-boy and heavy handed" approach as schools look set to close from Monday

Taoiseach urges ASTI to reconsider strike action

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to the media at Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast, 03/11/2016. Image: Niall Carson PA Wire/PA Images

Enda Kenny has called on secondary school teachers to call off Monday’s industrial action “in the interests of the country.”

It looks increasingly likely that hundreds of schools across the country will be forced to close on Monday with no end in sight to the teacher’s pay dispute.

Discussions between the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) and the Department of Education finished on Thursday evening without any breakthrough.

However, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny says the union should reconsider plans to withdraw from supervision and substitution duties:

The ASTI’s executive committee is due to meet today with negotiations set to continue over the weekend.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on education and skills, Carol Nolan said the government’s approach to the dsipute has been, “bully-boy and heavy handed.”  

She said government policy has “entrenched the position of the union” and prolonged the dispute. 

“The fact is that the imminent secondary school closures around the state on Monday are a result of Government intransigence and the Minister for Education and Skills needs to take responsibility,” she said.

“He has failed to negotiate effectively, he has failed to put appropriate contingency plans in place and he has failed the young people of this state who will suffer the most as a result of this dispute.”

A Department of Education statement last night said officials have remained in regular contact with school management bodies on contingency arrangements ahead of the withdrawal of supervision and substitution.

The statement said, “it remains the case that widespread school closures are expected from the 7th November due to the ASTI’s industrial action and non-cooperation with contingency".

It adds that there is a deal on offer to the ASTI which would see pay increases of 15% and 22% for new entrant teachers, with a route to further possible increases after that.

Green Party Deputy Leader and Spokesperson for Education, Catherine Martin called on the government to “commit to the principle for equal pay for equal work” for all public sector workers in order to end the stalemate.

“The Public Pay Commission must be directed to consider the issue of pay equality and a timeline of implementation must be published by Government,” she said.

“Something has to give if we are to avoid continued strikes and disruption. 

“This is an issue of inter-generational discrimination and basic pay equality - the Government needs to urgently begin to address this.”