Move to end deadlock in ASTI strike now expected
A concerted effort to break the deadlock in the teachers' dispute is now expected, with both sides meeting within days.
The Minister for Education, Dr Woods, is to meet ASTI officials as both sides explore a possible compromise. Neither side is hopeful at this stage of any breakthrough but officials are continuing to explore various options.
The sticking point remains the Government's insistence that any new pay deal for ASTI must be delivered within the parameters of the partnership deal, the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF). Dr Woods wants ASTI to join the other teaching unions in processing their claim through the benchmarking pay review body. ASTI is firmly opposed to the PPF and to benchmarking.
Under a possible compromise, some kind of teaching commission would be established for all teaching unions and this would feed into the benchmarking. The Government's bottom line is that the benchmarking body must determine the scale of any new pay award to teachers. But ASTI is refusing to return to the PPF fold.
ASTI, however, has not completely ruled out involvement with benchmarking at any future time.
With ASTI set to escalate the dispute with more strike days and a ban on exams, the Government is determined to give the issue some concentrated attention in the next week.
The possible involvement of the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, in helping to broker a deal before Christmas has not been ruled out.
Timetable for ASTI's action:
Thursday January 14th: One-day strike. Over 620 secondary schools will close.
Tuesday January 16th: One-day strike in Dublin.
Wednesday January 17th: One-day strike in Leinster (except Dublin).
Thursday January 18th: One-day strike in Munster.
Tuesday January 23rd: One-day strike in Connacht/ Ulster.
After this, one-day strikes in each of these four regions every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
From February 3rd: ASTI begins ban on exam work.