No end in sight for secondary school strikes as pay row escalates

Students cycle past their teachers on the picket line in Baldoyle, Dublin
Students cycle past their teachers on the picket line in Baldoyle, Dublin

Hundreds of secondary schools are shut today for the second day in a row as teachers stage the latest in a series of planned strikes over equal pay.

The action by the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) is forcing the closure of more than 500 secondary schools.

The strike comes just a day after a separate row over substitution and supervision pay forced almost two thirds of secondary schools to close their gates.

That dispute centres on the refusal of ASTI members to cover break times, absent colleagues and free periods amid claims that the Government reneged on a deal to resume paying them for the additional duty.

If not resolved, it could force schools to close indefinitely for health and safety reasons if trained and vetted replacement staff cannot be secured.

On the first day of the planned strikes over equal pay for newly qualified staff, in the Thursday before the Halloween mid-term, 507 schools out of 735 closed.

The walkouts are planned to run on five other days this month before culminating in a two-day shutdown of schools on December 6 and 7.

Talks with the Department of Education over the mid-term break failed to identify the prospect resolution.

The union refused to sign up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement public sector pay deal prompting the complicated, protracted and increasingly divisive disputes over pay rates for recent graduates and pay for duties outside normal teaching.

Michael Moriarty, general secretary of Education and Training Boards Ireland (ETBI), urged union and Government officials to engage in talks.

"ETBI is concerned about the effect that an ongoing campaign of industrial action will have on students in particular, but also on parents, teachers and management, not merely in our sector, but across the education sector at post-primary level," he said.

"Continuing dialogue is necessary to seek to facilitate a timely resolution."