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Teachers union to ballot for industrial action over Covid-19 safety concerns

It said ASTI members had “serious concerns” about the health and safety of school communities.

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THE MAIN TRADE union for secondary school teachers in Ireland says it will ballot for industrial action over concerns it has over the safety of staff.

The central executive committee of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said in met today and decided to ballot its members in relation to a number of “key issues” which had emerged since schools reopened.

It said ASTI members had “serious concerns” about the health and safety of school communities. 

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.

“The fact that high risk teachers have been asked to work in crowded classroom is unacceptable to us as a trade union,” ASTI president Ann Piggott said in a statement.

“The safety of students and their teachers must be the priority.”

Piggott said teachers were reporting that new work practices were being implemented without any consultation with school staff.

“It is unthinkable that at a time when teachers have demonstrated tremendous commitment to their students and to keeping education going, that schools would introduce work changes which have a further negative impact on teachers’ working lives. This smacks of crisis opportunism and cannot go unchallenged.”

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The ASTI said the ballot would also cover the difficulties faced by returning teachers who were “being forced to work precarious contacts” and those enduring unequal pay.

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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