Teaching union votes for strike action if Covid-19 concerns in schools not met
ASTI say Government must ‘immediately address’ safety issues, including stronger testing and contact tracing.
Members of a teaching union have voted to take industrial action unless the Government “immediately addresses” concerns over Covid-19 safety in schools.
The ASTI union is calling for a comprehensive testing programme and additional learning supports where schools are forced to close.
But the union has insisted strike action would be a “last resort” and that they want schools to remain open.
Union president Ann Piggott said: “ASTI members are clearly stating that they want schools to remain open for students during this pandemic.
“They are demanding that the Government step up and provide 24-hour test turnaround, a redefinition of close contacts for school settings, a comprehensive testing programme, and appropriate arrangements for teachers categorised as ‘high risk’.
“We must be supported in sustaining education for our children and young people.”
ASTI members have mandated the union to pursue a range of issues. These include the provision of IT resources for students and teachers to facilitate continuity of learning.
It appeared to us that the seams to were beginning to creak somewhat.Kieran Christie, ASTI General Secretary
A ballot of 6,759 members returned a vote of 5,359 in favour of the measures and 1,400 against, with a turnout of 42%.
General secretary Kieran Christie said teachers want schools to reopen after the mid-term break, but that it has to be on a “sustainable basis.”
He told RTE: “There has to be appropriate resourcing in schools. We’re very anxious that prior to Halloween, it appeared to us that the seams to were beginning to creak somewhat. We had the issue around tracing for instance.
“We need all these matters to be dealt with strongly and comprehensively.
“I attended a meeting this morning with representatives from the Department of Education and Nphet, and I sought assurances that the school teams that we’ve been promised in relation to public health, will go into schools very quickly if there is an outbreak and deal with them.”
He added: “I also sought assurances that the contact tracing situation is dealt with and people are not sitting around waiting for a call when they know they have been in contact with a confirmed case.
“These are crucial matters in order to keep our schools open.”
Mr Christie said he had been assured that the matters are intended to be dealt with by Monday morning.
“We’ll be watching very carefully to make sure that’s the case” he added.
Labour education spokesman Aodhan O Riordain said the vote was a “wake-up call” for Government.
He said: “This a wake-up call for the Government and Minister Foley who have been continually ignoring the concerns expressed by teaching unions and it should not take the threat of industrial action by one of the unions for the Government to actually wake up and listen.
“Some of the concerns expressed by ASTI members in relation to comprehensive and rapid testing, adequate protective gear, socially distancing in schools and the definition of a close contact along with long running issues in relation to pay inequality are reasonable and deserve a fair hearing from the Minister.
“Nobody wants industrial action, but schools are only functioning because of the professionalism and goodwill of staff.”
He called on the education minister Norma Foley to engage with the union to avert industrial action.