NEARLY two-out-of-three secondary schools were closed yesterday.
ASTI members refused to supervise students during breaks. As it stands, this unacceptable situation will continue indefinitely. Schoolchildren — more than 200,000 — and their parents will have to cope, and the situation impinges heavily on students facing state exams in the summer.
The ASTI rejected the terms of the Lansdowne Road Agreement and sought immediate change to the conditions offered to their members. They, and the garda representative bodies, were the only public-service groups to seek this special treatment, though concessions granted to the gardaí have toppled the dominoes, and union after union is demanding, unsurprisingly, similar treatment.
Education Minister Richard Bruton and the ASTI blame each other. Mr Bruton expressed his incredulity (it was shared by the thousands of parents hit by the strike), saying that “it beggars belief that the ASTI will close schools over 33 hours a year. They are trying to rewrite the entire approach to public-service pay”. Like the guards, the ASTI have gambled that Government hasn’t got the stomach for the fight and that it will will capitulate again. Though there is evidence to support that gamble, the Government must find the backbone to stick to the Lansdowne deal and put the common good before sectional interest — and do that quickly to end the disruptive dispute.
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