Fianna Fáil Spokesperson for Education, Thomas Byrne TD has reacted with disappointment at the decision of the ASTI to ballot for and recommend industrial action in secondary schools, and is calling on the Minister to publicly state that an agreement in principle regarding pay equality exists already.

“The decision at the weekend by the ASTI to vote in favour of industrial action is deeply worrying. There are tens of thousands of students across the country starting off the school term, planning for their Junior and Leaving Cert exams next June, who can’t afford their studies to be disrupted,” said the Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson.

“We cannot allow this situation to spiral out of control. Many will remember the disruption caused by the ASTI industrial action in the autumn 2001. All sides have an obligation to find a way forward that puts the best interests of pupils front and centre,” added Byrne.

“I have repeatedly stated my concern about the potential for serious industrial unrest in our schools, should the matter of the negotiations for the restoration of allowances for young teachers not be resolved. Dragging these talks to this stage has contributed severely to today’s ASTI announcement.

“It is clear that in principle an agreement effectively exists on the restoration of allowances for newly qualified teachers, and that ongoing negotiations are largely technical details that must be resolved.

“Just last week, I told Minister Bruton that a public statement must be made to confirm that an agreement in principle already exists. This would have provided reassurance for young teachers that serious progress is being made on achieving pay equality. It could also have shown the ASTI that real progress could be made through the Lansdowne Road agreement,” said the Fianna Fáil TD.

“Any ASTI action is not likely to be supported by parents or the general public and would cause unnecessary disruption to students. Meaningful talks are the only way to progress these issues.

“It’s clear that Minister Bruton is going to be a hands-off Minister. Pupils, their parents and teachers cannot afford a Minister who isn’t proactively looking to find ways of keeping our schools open,” added Byrne.

“At the core of this dispute is equity among the teaching profession. Fianna Fáil is clear on this issue: delivering pay equality is essential to resolving this dispute.”

“A speedy resolution of this issue will show the public, and other unions, that negotiations, and not industrial dispute, can bring about the best outcomes for teachers, pupils and all workers.”

“There is a roadmap to reaching agreement. The first step is the Minister publicly stating that there is an agreement in principle to equalise pay for young teachers. This public confirmation will convince teachers that the government is serious about addressing pay inequality within the public sector,” concluded Deputy Byrne.