The Government has again ruled out any talks with second-level teachers that would involve renegotiating the Haddington Road agreement on public service pay and productivity.
As about 17,000 members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) commenced industrial action yesterday, its leadership called on the Government to engage with it in a bid to avoid an escalation of the dispute.
The union has instructed members not to attend meetings, including parent-teacher meetings held outside of normal school hours, not to take on new middle-management duties without pay and not to co-operate with training for the introduction of new reforms to the Junior Cert.
The union, which last month voted to reject the Haddington Road deal, has members in about 70 per cent of second-level schools .
Schools with union members are taking different approaches in the early stages of the industrial dispute. Some schools with open evenings planned for within the next week, including Seamount College in Wexford and Ashbourne Community School in Meath, have cancelled the events.
Drogheda Grammar School, is still considering whether to proceed with its open evening, scheduled for October 10th. St Raphaela's girls school in Stillorgan, Dublin which has an open evening scheduled for October 24th, is taking a "wait and see" approach, and may hold an event during the day if the dispute is not resolved. Patrician Academy Cork is adopting a similar approach.
One school, Coláiste Chiaráin in Limerick, is going ahead with its open day on October 8th, although the principal, Noel Malone, has told teachers from affected unions not to feel pressured to attend.
The greater Limerick area has a common second-level application system and open days are tightly co-ordinated, so postponement could cause enrolment issues. The school has scheduled a parent-teacher meeting for tomorrow morning.
Union general secretary Pat King said Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn had "to be concerned that the majority of second-level teachers are engaging in industrial action and that this dispute has the potential to escalate".
He said now was the time to seek a resolution. Mr King said the union believed an appropriate talks process had the potential to result in an outcome that was acceptable to all concerned
“Talks between the ASTI and the Government are the only way to resolve this dispute”.
However, in a statement issued in response to the ASTI's comments, the Department of Education said: "The Government has already set out its position that there can be no renegotiation of the Haddington Road agreement."
The Joint Managerial Body, which represents the management of some 400 fee-paying and non-fee-paying schools, has urged schools to prioritise teaching and learning and “not to reschedule meetings at this time”. However, this advice is widely expected to change if the dispute is still ongoing in a fortnight, with erosion of teaching time appearing increasingly inevitable.
Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland have voted to accept the Haddington Road agreement. However, the department has not yet issued the official circular formally triggering the introduction of the non-pay measures set out in the deal. Pay cuts for those earning €65,000 are already in place.