Department insists schools are safe as ASTI members back strike

Second-level teachers vote in favour of industrial action over Covid-related concerns

Teachers also supported industrial action over lower pay rates in place for more recent entrants to the profession ‘to be taken in conjunction with one or both of the other teacher unions’. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Teachers also supported industrial action over lower pay rates in place for more recent entrants to the profession ‘to be taken in conjunction with one or both of the other teacher unions’. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

 

The Department of Education has insisted that schools are safe places for staff and students as second-level teachers backed potential strike action over Covid-related concerns.

Members of the ASTI union voted in favour of industrial action up to and including work stoppages unless the Government immediately addressed a number of concerns regarding Covid-19 in schools.

Teachers also supported industrial action over lower pay rates in place for more recent entrants to the profession “to be taken in conjunction with one or both of the other teacher unions”.

The Department of Education said it had secured €375 million to fund various measures including enhanced cleaning, building modification, recruitment of additional staff and the provision of personal protective equipment.

It said health precautions were proving very effective in suppressing transmission of the virus in schools.

Serial testing

The ASTI said the Government should introduce serial testing for Covid-19. It said there should be rapid testing and turnaround times for results as well as the provision of appropriate resources for schools “to ensure continuation of learning where there are school closures/self-isolation”.

The ballot paper said that the Government should address concerns by Friday, October 30th.

ASTI members rejected industrial action over any failure to introduce two-metre physical distancing in classrooms or to provide high-quality N95 masks to all students and teachers.

The turnout in the ballots was about 42 per cent.

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said strikes would be a last resort. He said the union wanted an engagement with the Department of Education and health authorities.

The union’s executive is to meet in the coming days to consider the results.

The Department of Education said latest positivity rates for close contacts of detected cases of Covid-19 in secondary schools are 2.1 per cent compared to about 10 per cent in the community.

It said new school teams in HSE areas would assist schools when cases were identified and weekly meetings would be held between public health experts and unions.

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