Schools draw up plans to hire staff as cover in case of strikes
ASTI members to be hit with financial penalties for refusing to work additional hour
Members of the ASTI protest outside the Dáil. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Secondary schools are drawing up contingency plans to hire hundreds of staff to help prevent schools closing as a result of industrial action likely to begin this autumn.
This move follows the Government’s decision to apply financial penalties to teachers who are refusing to work an additional hour a week agreed under a previous pay deal.
These penalties are set to trigger a ballot for industrial action in September among the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) which is widely expected to lead to potential school closures.
This action is likely to include withdrawal of supervision and substitution duties.
While teachers would be available to teach, they would not be available to monitor break times or fill in for teachers who are sick or away on school trips. This would force the closure of schools on health and safety grounds.
It is understood these supervisors would be paid about €20 an hour and would need to be Garda-vetted in compliance with child safety legislation.
Vetting is understood to take about three weeks, but could be fast-tracked, according to informed sources.
The boards of management of individual schools would be responsible for hiring supervisors, while the Department of Education is understood to be prepared to make funds available.
School management bodies, which include the Joint Managerial Body and the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools, met senior Department of Education officials recently to discuss emergency arrangements.
Schools staffed mainly by teachers affiliated to the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, which are typically under the management of Education and Training Boards, are unlikely to be affected.
The move to hire supervisors has echoes of industrial action in 2002, when many schools relied on outside staff to keep schools open.
In the meantime, the ASTI has issued a directive to its 17,500 members to cease working Croke Park hours with effect from July 11th.
The Department of Education has warned that penalties due under financial emergency legislation would cost teachers up to €31,000 over a four-year period as a result of increment freezes and non-payment allowances for supervision and substitution.
In addition, new teachers would have to work longer before securing contracts of indefinite duration.
The next group affected will be serving ASTI teachers who are to lose up to €800 in September, due to be paid for supervision and substitutions duties.
Fightback, an influential hardline faction of the union, has said these measures may lead to the withdrawal of supervision and substitution duties.
In the meantime, industrial action is looming on two other fronts, including a long-running dispute over junior cycle reform and pay rates for newly-qualified teachers.