Secondary schools to open after ASTI calls off strike

More than 500 of the State’s 736 secondary schools were closed on Tuesday

ASTI picket at Monkstown Park College in South County Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke

ASTI picket at Monkstown Park College in South County Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Secondary schools will reopen on Wednesday after the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) agreed to suspend its industrial action.

In a statement, the ASTI announced it had accepted an invitation to talks from the chair of the Teachers’ Conciliation Council, an arbitration body.

Schools are set to reopen on Wednesday with the union announcing its strike action and the withdrawal of supervision duties will be suspended for the duration of talks.

Payment for more than thousands of teachers involved in the dispute is set to resume from tomorrow.

"ASTI members will be available for teaching and supervision and substitution duties tomorrow and for the duration of the talks. We expect that all second-level schools will be open tomorrow," the union said, in a statement.

The Department of Education confirmed on Tuesday night it had also received and accepted an invitation from the Teachers Conciliation Council to discuss "matters of mutual concern" relating to the ASTI's industrial action.

These talks are likely to continue until the end of November.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton welcomed the union's decision to suspend its industrial action.

Earlier on Tuesday, the ASTI said it was open to the idea of a third-party mediator stepping in to help resolve its dispute which has shut hundreds of secondary schools.

More than 500 of the State’s 736 secondary schools closed on Tuesday as a result of a strike by the union over pay levels for new entrants. More than 250,000 students have been affected.

The ASTI’s president Ed Byrne had said the union would consider a body such as the Workplace Relations Commission intervening if it felt there were grounds to resolve its stand-off with Government.

“We have said we’re not against such a thing. We would certainly consider it. No one else has made that offer to us or to the other side as far as I know,” he said. “Maybe someone with an outside view can see glaring things that we have been so close to that we can’t see where progress can be made.”

He was speaking after Taoiseach Enda Kenny called for an end to the dispute and noted it was an important semester for second-level examination students.

“It does not do anybody any good and it discriminates and does down the pupils in Leaving Cert classes in particular,” he told the Dáil.

He said the issue of the extra hour’s supervision could be resolved quickly and that pay for new entrants would increase by 15 per cent between August 2016 and January 2018.

Both the ASTI and the Department of Education had indicated there were  still significant gaps between both sides despite a week of almost daily talks.

On Tuesday, the head of the National Parents’ Council for post-primary students criticised the ASTI for using students as “pawns” in its industrial dispute.

Paul Mooney, the council’s president, said there was “quiet fury” among many parents and the scale of the ASTI’s dispute was disproportionate to the issues at hand.

The ASTI, however, said teachers will work to ensure their children catch up with their studies and will not lose out as a result of its action.