Teachers warn of industrial action if school re-opening not in line with health advice

Government has said it wants to reopen all schools fully in late August

The motion noted the continuing risk associated with Covid-19, deficits in terms of physical infrastructure and facilities in education sector workplaces. Photograph: iStock

The motion noted the continuing risk associated with Covid-19, deficits in terms of physical infrastructure and facilities in education sector workplaces. Photograph: iStock

 

Teachers have warned of potential industrial action if schools do not re-open in line with public health advice or if this poses a risk to health and safety.

The annual conference of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) on Friday passed a motion, without debate, which looked forward to the re-opening of schools, centres, colleges, institutes and universities to all staff and students as soon as this could be achieved safely and in a manner consistent with public health advice.

The motion noted the continuing risk associated with Covid-19, deficits in terms of physical infrastructure and facilities in education sector workplaces and that current cleaning and that hygiene regimes were insufficient to support a safe return to those workplaces . It also said that a substantial number of staff members and students who had underlying health issues would face an increase level of risk.

The TUI conference demanded that “any Government/ Department of Education and Skills/employer decisions or protocols in relation to return to workplaces, including those in respect of social distancing, must be based upon and adhere to the advice of the national public health authorities”.

The conference said that any such decisions must prioritise the health and safety of both staff members and students

It said that prior to and framing any such decisions, there must be full, meaningful and structured consultation and discussion at national level with the TUI and other relevant parties

The conference maintained that the necessary level of resources (including PPE, where appropriate)must be made available to schools, colleges and centres.

Congress also instructs the executive committee to initiate a campaign of action and, if necessary, ballot members for industrial action, at institutional, employer, sectoral, regional or national level, as appropriate, in the event that return to workplaces is demanded in a manner and/or at a time that is considered not to be consistent with the advice of the public health authorities or that places at risk the health and safety of members and/or of their students”, the motion passed by the conference stated.

The Government has said it wants to reopen schools fully in late August without social distancing in order to ensure most children are return to the classroom.

However, current public health guidelines do not permit this. The Department of Education has said it expects to receive updated health advice over the coming weeks.

The TUI conference also passed a motion backing proposals for a ballot for industrial action n the event of education employers seeking to exploit or normalise exceptional or once-off arrangements introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic.