In the morning sun near Cork city centre, staff of St Aloysius’ College lined the footpath along the school wall as the gates were closed throughout yesterday.
Miriam O’Donovan, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) steward at the all-girls’ secondary school, said each of the union’s 23 members was at the school gate for whatever period they were timetabled to have a class of students.
And the finger of blame was being firmly pointed at Education Minister Richard Bruton and the Government.
“We’re presenting for work as usual. We’re here to teach and we’re unable to teach because of the minister’s decision not to pay the money owed,” said Ms O’Donovan.
“The minister has known since the beginning of July that this was coming because the Haddington Road Agreement came to an end then, and our union leaders notified the minister of that. If the minister can’t put arrangements in place between July and November, we don’t know how long it’s going to take him,” she said.
While this was the first day of closure at this and more than 370 other ASTI-staffed religious-owned secondary schools, there is a prospect of staff remaining outside for days or weeks owing to their refusal to do supervision and substitution work.
Asked about the concerns this may cause for students and parents, Ms O’Donovan said the blame was not with teachers but with their paymasters. “For any parents who have concerns, they should make their grievances known to the minister, because he and the Government are preventing us from teaching. I would assure parents that we are committed to teaching their children. We’re outside here for now but we want to be inside school,” said the ASTI steward.
ASTI members who have not told their school boards they were available for supervision and substitution duties will lose a day’s pay for each day their school is closed because of the industrial action. A second one-day strike today, on the issue of equal pay for teachers hired since 2011, will result in the loss of a further day’s pay, adding to the personal costs.
“Teachers have the same demands on them as anyone else. People have mortgages and all the calls on their finances that anybody would have,” Ms O’Donovan said.
On the closures yesterday likely to continue unless the dispute is resolved, she said ASTI members feel very strongly about the money linked to supervision and substitution being paid to other teachers but not being given to them. “The minister is muddying the waters with constant references to Croke Park hours and Lansdowne Road. This is about supervision and substitution, and this is all it’s about,” she said.
“Under Haddington Road, we agreed to wait for payment. We haven’t been paid for that work since we started back in late August, and we have done it out of goodwill. But our goodwill only stretches so far.”
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