Date Uploaded: 05/02/2016
A one-day stoppage by members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) could close more than 350 schools.
The strike is likely on either Tuesday, February 23, or Wednesday, February 24, just days before the General Election. It would affect schools in the Education and Training Board (ETB) and the community and comprehensive sectors, where the TUI has members.
The TUI is the sole teachers' union in the more than 260 ETB schools, while both the TUI and the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) represent teachers in the 96 community and comprehensive schools.
While the ASTI is not involved in this action, its members may not pass pickets placed at community and comprehensive schools and, in any event, in the absence of TUI members, it would be very difficult for these schools to operate.
TUI general secretary John MacGabhann said that while a one-day stoppage in the week of the election was not inevitable, "it is certainly possible".
He said it would depend on whether the Department of Education agreed to meet them for meaningful discussions about concerns of their members, including the problem of using newly-qualified teachers on a casual basis.
Mr MacGabhann said education cuts in recent years continued to have a devastating effect on the quality of service to students in terms of larger class sizes, less access to one-to-one attention and less pastoral support.
The matter will be discussed at a TUI executive meeting tomorrow, when union leaders will review any developments.
However, there is no immediate prospect of the Department of Education agreeing to the union's request for a meeting.
A department spokesperson said it was open to engaging with the TUI on issues of mutual concern "in the context of their continuing co-operation with collective agreements".
Meanwhile, there were no classes yesterday in the country's 14 Institutes of Technology because of a one-day strike by 4,000 lecturers, also members of the TUI, over the impact of cuts on that sector, which suffered a 35pc reduction in funding between 2008 and 2015. Over the same period, there was a 32pc rise in student numbers while lecturer numbers fell by 10pc.
Journalist: Katherine Donnelly