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Secondary SChools

ASTI: Teachers' strike may be considered due to Covid-19 safety concerns

The union is balloting members for industrial action.

THE ASTI HAS said that strikes are an option on the table as it begins to ballot members for industrial action due to Covid-19 safety concerns in schools.  

The secondary school teachers’ union said yesterday that a number of “key issues” had emerged since schools reopened that cause concern.  

Issues raised include physical distancing in schools, provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), the definition of close contacts, comprehensive testing and testing turnaround times, provisions for high risk teachers , and IT resources for students and teachers to facilitate remote teaching and learning.

Asked on on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland whether strike action is being considered, ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said it cannot be ruled out.  

“Well, we want to keep schools open, and obviously the form of the industrial action could be up to an including strike action, but it may take other forms,” he said.

Those decisions have not been made and won’t be made for some several weeks until the balloting process has been completed.

As well as the issues listed above, Christie raised particular concern about teachers from at-risk groups being exposed in classrooms. 

“Most especially the problems that are associated with teachers who are in their high risk health category, who find themselves operating in classrooms with maybe 30 students, and so on. In tight conditions and obviously it’s a very difficult position for them to be operating in,” he said. 

He added there have already been cases of Covid-19 in schools with teachers not being provided with adequate information about whether they are a close contact.

“For instance a case could be, as has happened already, identified within a school and nobody sure what’s going on. Everybody is probably well aware of that they’ve been in a room for well in excess of the 15 minutes that would normally be regarded as the period of time for close contacts. The lack of information and the anxiety that that creates on itself is as a major problem for us.”

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