Belfast Telegraph

Schools stay shut as substitution and supervision pay row deepens

There is no sign of a deal to reverse the indefinite closure of schools in a row over pay for substitution and supervision, t he Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (Asti) has warned.

Union president Ed Byrne issued the warning as the row deepened and while parents and pupils prepared for continued strikes on a separate issue of equal wages for newly qualified teachers.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said it beggared belief that teachers are forcing the indefinite closure of hundreds of schools over one hour of extra work a week, known as the Croke Park hours.

About 200,000 secondary pupils have no access to classes as members of Asti refuse to carry out substitution and supervision.

More than half of the country's 735 schools are closed, with schools under religious patronage or owned by a religious body worst affected.

The industrial action over substitution and supervision, sparked by the union's rejection of the later Lansdowne Road public sector pay deal, leaves thousands of students in exam year missing classes, parents taking leave or seeking childcare and teachers being docked pay.

Talks aimed at brokering a deal collapsed over the weekend.

Some 78% of Asti members voted in favour of withdrawal from supervision and substitution.

Mr Byrne accused the Government of reneging on a deal to pay teachers for the time spent looking after pupils during breaks and free periods and when colleagues are unavailable to teach.

"This is to do with a rigid agreement they agreed ... they have reneged on that. It is not acceptable," he said.

"There is no sign of resolution. Let's be honest - schools are shut today because the department are trying to force us into Lansdowne Road. No other reason."

Mr Bruton said an offer is on the table for teachers to work the additional hour and in return trigger 1,500 euro (£1,334) pay for substitution time and quicker permanency and 6,500 euro (£5,782) pay rises for young teachers and new promotion opportunities.

"It beggars belief that the Asti would close the schools indefinitely about their decision to refuse to work one hour per week over the 33 weeks that they work," he told RTE Radio.

"That's something that every public servant works. And some work more than one hour.

"They are trying to rewrite the entire approach to public pay in this dispute."

Mr Bruton said he was bewildered by the teachers' approach.

He said if other public servants took the same stance as the Asti, it would cost the state 700 million euro (£623 million) or 14,000 jobs.

John Curtis, g eneral secretary of the Joint Managerial Body, which represents the 380 schools in the voluntary secondary sector, said only a dozen or so of its schools would remain open.

"This is unfair to thousands of students and their families who will be affected. We must get our schools open and our students back to their normal school routines as quickly as possible," he said.

The State Examinations Commission will keep exam plans under review depending on how long schools are closed.

The dispute is compounded by the planned series of walkouts by Asti members over equal pay for new entrants with the next strike planned for Tuesday.

Mr Bruton claimed that plans to pay carers more money , give an extra five euro (£4.45) a week in benefits and for pensions and to employ another 2,500 teachers next year would be sacrificed if the attitude of the Asti was replicated across the public sector.


From Belfast Telegraph