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ASTI members vote to take industrial action unless government addresses Covid-19 safety concerns

The union president said teachers are “demanding that the government step up” and provide solutions.

Image: Shutterstock/lonndubh

MEMBERS OF THE Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) have voted to take industrial action unless the government addresses several issues related to Covid-19 in schools by 30 October. 

The issues in question include the need for a comprehensive testing programme, rapid testing and turnaround times, along with resources for schools to ensure continuation of learning if schools are closed or people are self-isolating. 

The ASTI president Ann Piggott said: “ASTI members are clearly stating that they want schools to remain open for students during this pandemic.”

She said teachers are “demanding that the government step up” and provide solutions to these issues. 

“We must be supported in sustaining education for our children and young people,” she said. 

Teachers voted in favour of taking industrial action – up to and including strike action – if the Department of Education fails to put in place measures such as redefining close contacts in schools, introducing a serial testing programme and providing free laptops for staff and students to ensure remote learning is possible. 

Through this vote, ASTI members have mandated the union to pursue issues such as the provision of IT resources for students and teachers to help continue learning. 

ASTI members also agreed they “will not accept unilateral decisions by some schools” to change working conditions without consulting teaching staff. 

In a separate ballot, members of the union voted to take industrial action for equal pay for equal work, which is to be taken in conjunction with one or both of the other teacher unions. 

Secondary schools reopened at the end August after being closed since mid-March due to Covid-19, with teachers providing remote learning from March until June. 

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Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said this vote for industrial actino if necessary is a “wakeup call for the government and Minister [Norma] Foley”. 

“It should not take the threat of industrial action by one of the unions for the Government to actually wake up and listen,” the TD said in a statement. 

He said the Education Minister “needs to meet the teaching unions as a matter to urgency” to resolve these issues. 

“The current system is unsustainable, and teachers deserve to be shown respect and to have their genuine safety concerns addressed,” he said. 

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