ASTI members outside Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon this morning.
Eleven secondary schools in Donegal are closed today as members of the Association of Secondary Teachers (ASTI) in Ireland go on strike.
It's the first of seven days of industrial action planned between now and December 7th. The union has also voted to withdraw supervision and substitution duties from November 7th. The strike action comes largely over demands for pay equality for newly qualified teachers.
Many boards of management at ASTI schools have advised parents that they will close today because of the strike, including: Coláiste Cholmcille in Ballyshannon; Loreto Letterkenny; Loreto Milford, Scoil Mhuire Buncrana; St. Columba’s College in Stranorlar and St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny.
Dual-union schools which are also closed today due to the strike include Carndonagh Community School, Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola in Falcarragh, Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, Rosses Community School in Dungloe and the Royal & Prior in Raphoe.
St. Columba’s Comprehensive School in Glenties is open as normal, the school confirmed yesterday.
Youthreach centres and the 15 Donegal Education and Training Board schools are also not affected by the strike action. Most teachers at ETB-managed schools and centres are members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI).
Neil Curran, ASTI representative for Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim and a teacher at St Columba's in Stranorlar, said he believes the issue of supervision and substitution will come to the fore.
This week the general secretary of the Joint Managerial Body (JMB) said he does not see many secondary schools opening after mid-term break, with ASTI withdrawing from supervision and substitution duties from November 7th.
The JMB represents 380 voluntary secondary schools across the country, with most teachers there members of ASTI. “That means that on the 7th of November most ASTI schools will be closed and teachers will be locked out,” Mr. Curran said. “I think the minister is hoping that, because of the fact that we won’t get paid from the 7th of November, we may give in, but I don’t see that happening,” Mr. Curran continued.
He expressed sympathy and concern for the students affected, saying, “I feel children are being used as a political weapon by the minister.”
TUI president Joanne Irwin, warned that the situation is likely to become more serious after November 7th, when ASTI is to withdraw entirely from supervision and substitution. “I don’t know what the situation is going to be then,” she said.
The TUI and INTO are holding a rally today outside the Dáil seeking equal pay. TUI is pursuing its demands within the Lansdowne Road Agreement, which it approved in May and ASTI rejected in August. The TUI's Donegal branch voted approval of the TUI strategy at their AGM this week.
Schools that are closed today:
Coláiste Cholmcille, Ballyshannon; Loreto Letterkenny; Loreto Milford; Scoil Mhuire Buncrana; St. Columba’s College, Stranorlar; St. Eunan’s College, Letterkenny.
Carndonagh Community School; Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola, Falcarragh; Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair; Rosses Community School, Dungloe; Royal & Prior, Raphoe.