Public transport users and schools face strike disruption
Bus Éireann staff to stage all-out action as ASTI rejects deal in industrial dispute
Staff at Bus Éireann are to stage an indefinite all-out strike from February 20th if management imposes planned cuts to staff earnings. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Tens of thousands of secondary school students and public transport users face the prospect of disruption in the coming weeks after secondary school teachers and Bus Éireann workers backed industrial action.
Members of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) rejected “final” settlement proposals in a dispute over pay and junior cycle reform.
Its president, Ed Byrne, said there was no “immediate” threat of school closures but that members would strike if the Government follows through on “threats” that result in redundancies for any of its members.
Staff at Bus Éireann are to stage an indefinite all-out strike from February 20th if management imposes planned cuts to staff earnings – it is seeking €30 million in savings to address the company’s precarious finances.
All Bus Éireann services, with the exception of school bus transport, will be affected should the strike go ahead.
Unions have also warned that the strike could spread to Dublin Bus and Iarnród Éireann, which also form part of the State-owned CIÉ group.
Bus Éireann last night said it would hold talks without pre-conditions with the unions and was more than willing to listen to any alternative savings proposals they may put forward.
ASTI members voted narrowly – 52.5 per cent to 47.5 per cent or a margin of some 700 votes – to reject the deal on pay and junior cycle reform, which means up to 40,000 Junior Cert students face losing 10 per cent in this summer’s English exam due to the continuing dispute.
Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton last night warned that no further offers will be made to ASTI teachers.
“As I have stated previously, the proposals represented the final outcome of the process and there will be no further offer made to ASTI,” he said.
“The Government is committed to continuing to work with unions inside the agreement in progressing consideration of pay and conditions issues.”
A spokesman for Mr Bruton confirmed the Department of Education would press ahead with plans to withdraw ASTI members from a scheme which protects teachers against redundancy in cases where they are surplus to requirement.
The ASTI’s leadership had said there was no “immediate” threat of school closures unless the Government followed through on “threats” resulting in redundancies for any of its members.
Decisions on teacher numbers for the next academic year are being made in coming weeks.
Controversially, retired teachers – who account for about 1,300 members – were entitled to vote in the ballot.
ASTI rules state that retired, or “emeritus members”, cannot vote on issues concerning industrial action.
It is understood a decision to include them in the vote was made following an internal debate.
The Joint Managerial Body (JMB), which represents almost 400 secondary schools, expressed its disappointment with the outcome of the ASTI ballot.
“The JMB is disappointed at the result of today’s ballot and regrets that this period of uncertainty in our schools is set to continue,” said JMB general secretary John Curtis.
“We are aware of the efforts put in to date to finding a resolution of this dispute and would ask that at this juncture all parties might carefully reflect on what the implications of this decision might be.”