‘Unacceptable’ changes to vaccine rollout should be reversed, teachers’ union says

Teachers angry and dismayed at revision, but no threat to school reopening, ASTI says

The Government’s planned change to the Covid-19 vaccination schedule is unacceptable and needs to be reversed, second-level teachers have maintained.

The general secretary of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), Kieran Christie, said on Wednesday he expected that an alliance of unions in education and potentially elsewhere in the frontline public service would come together to try to have the policy on the vaccination rollout overturned.

The Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to change the National Vaccination Programme to an age-based system, once those aged 70 and older, people considered vulnerable and those with underlying conditions were immunised. The original programme involved 15 cohorts of people based on age and profession, with people essential to education included in cohort 11.

Mr Christie said teachers were enormously dismayed and angry at the Government’s revised plan for vaccinations. He maintained this represented a breach of faith.


However, he said that the union was “not in any sense considering putting any threat at this point in time over the reopening of schools”.

Mr Christie said the ASTI would be asking Minister for Education Norma Foley whether she supported the revised vaccination schedule "in the context of assurances that had been given to teachers".

The ASTI had been promised that teachers would be in the first 30 per cent of the population to be vaccinated, but that was not now going to happen for the vast majority of members.

No warning

Mr Christie said the Government’s move on Tuesday had come without warning, and it represented a “psychological blow to the teaching profession”.

The ASTI questioned the science that the Government argued underpinned the proposed changes to the vaccination schedule.

Trade union Fórsa said it had re-iterated its concerns at the revised Government vaccination plan on behalf of special needs assistants at talks with the Department of Education on Wednesday.

The Government move was also criticised by gardaí, transport workers and retail staff on Tuesday.

The Garda Representative Association said: "Gardaí will not forget the way we have been treated during this crisis. We are the second pillar of the response to the pandemic and we are now being told that we are no more at risk than someone who can work from home." Its executive is to consider the issue on Thursday.

Siptu expressed concern about the changes to the vaccination schedule on behalf of firefighters and childcare personnel.

Siptu head of strategic organising Darragh O'Connor said: "Early years educators have stepped up to the plate at every stage of this pandemic by caring for and educating the children of essential workers. The majority of early years educators are working without sick pay, earning below the living wage and do not have the ability to socially distance at work."

The general secretary of Mandate, the retail workers' union, Gerry Light said: "The sudden shift from prioritising job categories, including essential workers who have kept society functioning, over now to an age-based rollout is a serious slap in the face for the many thousands of our members who have continued to serve the public."

The general secretary of the National Bus and Rail Union Dermot O’Leary said transport services would not return to pre-Covid levels without the vaccination of frontline workers.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent