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'It beggars belief the ASTI would decide to close schools indefinitely'

ASTI members are withdrawing from certain duties.

Updated 10.21am

Leah Farrell Leah Farrell

THE MINISTER FOR Education this morning hit out at the ASTI, whose members are today refusing to perform supervisory or substitution duties in schools across the country.

The Department of Education has said hundreds of schools are closed today as a result and speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister Richard Brutan said:

It beggars belief that the ASTI would decide to close schools indefinitely about their decision to refuse to work one hour per week over the 33 weeks that they work.

He was referring to the additional free hours public servants are required to work under the public pay agreement – which members of the ASTI have not signed up to.

Bruton also accused the union of trying to “rewrite the entire approach to public pay in this dispute”.

He said accepting the Lansdowne Road agreement would trigger “very substantial gains” for the union’s membership, including payment for the duties they are today refusing to perform.

Speaking on the same radio show this morning, ASTI president Ed Byrne said today’s action has nothing to do with those 33 free ‘Croke Park’ hours the government wants them to work.

The ASTI says that teachers had agreed to forgo supervision and substitution payments for the duration of the Haddington Road Agreement but that that period is ended and they are now entitled to be paid for the duties.

Byrne argues the Department of Education is attempting to force the ASTI to adopt the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

No movement

The Department of Education says that when teachers stopped working the 33 free hours that they lost additional payments under the Lansdowne Road Agreement including payments for supervision and substitution.

“At the moment there is no movement from our side to enter Lansdowne Road and let’s be clear schools are shut today because the Department are trying to force us into Lansdowne Road, and for no other reason,” Byrne commented today.

He said the deal offered to garda associations last week after Labour Court consultation shows that “one size fits all is not always the best way”.

“Sometimes there has to be other deals and other agreements”.

As members stop performing supervisory or substitution duties, boards of management have taken individual decisions about whether schools are forced to close because of “health and safety issues”.

The Joint Managerial Body which advises and supports boards of management has advised 380 of its schools that the health and safety of children “paramount” and must be the main factor in determining if schools are to open without supervisory or substitution duties today.

The next official strike date is scheduled for tomorrow.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

Read: ASTI is “a long way away” from temporarily suspending teachers strike >

Read: No movement in teachers’ pay discussions ahead of next week’s strike >

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