Parents face chaos in schools closure

MORE than 65,000 teachers and lecturers will take to the picket line in 10 days’ time, leaving the parents of almost 800,000 school pupils needing to arrange childcare on November 24.

After the announcement that teachers would join the one-day public service strike, Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe urged their unions to stay in talks with the Government.

His department will save an estimated €10.3 million in pay, docked from almost 60,000 school teachers if the action goes ahead.

The teachers are the biggest single group of workers to back the one-day strike so far, joining 55,000 IMPACT members working in a range of public services and the Irish Nurses Organisation’s 40,000 members.

Many other civil and public service unions will use mandates from ballots earlier this year, or will announce their ballot results in the coming days.

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), and Teachers’ Union of Ireland said almost four-to-one backing for strike action reflects members’ anger at the prospect of further pay cuts in next month’s budget. They will be joined in their walkout from schools and colleges by the 2,000-member Irish Federation of University Teachers.

The National Parents Council-Primary (NPC-P) expressed concern about anything that impacts on children’s education, but particularly if pupils have to miss a day at school. Chief executive Áine Lynch said any absence from school will also cause major logistical difficulties for parents.

The Joint Managerial Body and the Irish Vocational Education Association, between them representing almost 650 of the country’s 730 second-level schools, said the loss of teaching time would be regrettable but expressed hope the issue could be resolved by November 24.

Despite slow progress in discussions to date, it is understood public service unions would be willing to negotiate on the €1.3 billion cuts to public service pay sought by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

However, they have made it clear this week that the Government must first give them its blueprint for the shape and size of the public service beyond 2010.

Sheila Nunan, incoming INTO general secretary, said: “We and other public servants considered high earners would accept a hit in tax that would equally hit higher paid private sector workers, within a wide range of solutions,” she said.

In a joint statement, the four teacher union leaders said the Government has a window of opportunity between now and November 24 to signal its commitment to an alternative approach.

But Mr O’Keeffe said the Government has little room for manoeuvre.


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