Teachers' union to ballot for industrial action over Covid-19 safety concerns

The ASTI is concerned about physical distancing and provision of personal protective equipment in schools. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA

UPDATED: 20/9/20 8.30am

The main trade union for secondary school teachers has said it will ballot for industrial action over concerns about staff safety.

The central executive committee of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) said it met on Saturday and decided to ballot its members in relation to a number of “key issues” which had emerged since schools reopened.

The issues include physical distancing in schools, provision of personal protective equipment, the definition of close contacts, testing and testing turnaround times, provisions for high-risk teachers, and information technology resources for students and teachers to facilitate remote teaching and learning.

“The fact that high risk teachers have been asked to work in crowded classroom is unacceptable to us as a trade union,” ASTI president Ann Piggott said in a statement.

“The safety of students and their teachers must be the priority.”

The union has yet to decide whether it will ballot members for strike action. A spokeswoman told The Irish Times that nothing had been ruled in or out at this stage.

Second level schools reopened at the start of September after being closed since mid-March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

General secretary of the union Ciaran Christie said more resources are needed.

"The ultimate concern is for the safety and wellbeing of [staff] and their students. Teachers want to work in a Covid-secure workplace and the arrangements that have been put in place are being operated on a variable basis in some schools and we need more effort and more resourcing."