Updated: 07/10/16 : 06:38:55
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ASTI teachers asked to cooperate to keep schools open

The Department of Education has asked teachers' union ASTI to cooperate with arrangements it is attempting to make to keep secondary schools open in the event of industrial action by teachers.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers is currently balloting members in relation to two issues, one of which is a withdrawal from supervision and substitution duties.

If members vote to withdraw then more than two thirds of post primary schools could be forced to close as a result.

The outcome of the ASTI ballot will be known next Friday.

RTÉ reports that the Department of Education says the outcome of the ballot cannot be presumed.

However it is confirmed that it has been discussing contingency arrangements in the event of a 'yes' vote with school management bodies.

If ASTI members decide to withdraw from supervision and substitution duties this makes school closures inevitable unless others can be recruited to step in and assume those duties.

The department has written to the union requesting that it give sufficient notice of any withdrawal to allow time for recruitment and garda vetting to be undertaken.

This would require much more than the one week's notice stipulated under industrial relations legislation.

The union has also been asked to allow school principals who are ASTI members to cooperate with any such moves, and it is asked that ASTI members do not in any way hinder the activities of external personnel, should they be recruited.

The ASTI says it is awaiting the outcome of the ballot and has not as yet made any decision as to industrial action.

Of the country's 735 post primary schools, the ASTI would represent staff in more than 70% of them.

While 375 schools have staff rooms entirely or almost entirely comprised of ASTI members, a further 150 schools are what are known as "dual union" schools, with a mixture of ASTI and TUI members.

Any industrial action will affect both these kinds of schools.

The department says it expects the union to consider the matter following the conclusion of the ballots on Friday.

It says keeping schools open would require a significant degree of cooperation from the union. But even with such cooperation departmental sources have acknowledges that it would be a difficult task.