Talks to end disruption at secondary schools continue

Meetings to end disruption in secondary schools have been continuing over the past week between the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Department of Education.

The process began eight days ago when Teachers’ Conciliation Council (TCC) chairperson Anna Perry invited the parties to talks, after several weeks of meetings failed to find a resolution.

Industrial action by ASTI on two issues saw more than 200,000 students lose several days of classes at over 500 schools in the past three weeks. But the conciliation process prompted it to suspend those actions, which included two one-day strikes either side of the mid-term break. Talks may continue until the end of the month.

“The talks are confidential and all parties have agreed that they will not comment on the talks during the process,” the ASTI this week told members.

Education Minister Richard Bruton told the Dáil yesterday that, as well as pay issues at the centre of the two most recent actions, the union’s long-running dispute over junior cycle reforms are also on the agenda at the TCC.

But Labour Party education spokesperson Joan Burton criticised him for indicating it was a matter for the State Examinations Commission that students whose English teachers are ASTI members face losing 10% of marks of their Junior Certificate grade in the subject.

Those marks are available for a written task based on a classroom-based assessment due to be undertaken next month, but which industrial action prevents ASTI members from conducting with their students.

The series of one-day strikes by the ASTI were announced last month in pursuit of restoring pay scales of teachers hired since 2011 to equal those of longer-serving colleagues.

Mr Bruton told the Dáil his officials are seeking to resolve this issue at the TCC, but he failed to address the specific questions from Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit TDs Paul Murphy and Richard Boyd-Barrett if he would commit to ending, at some point in the future, the unequal pay structures for teachers and other public servants hired since 2011.

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