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Teacher unions to vote on balloting members for industrial action with one Carlow Kilkenny representative saying they’ll wait to hear what the Education Minister has to say first

TUI, ASTI and INTO all start their conferences today

Delegates at the three teachers’ union conferences are set to vote on whether to ballot their members for industrial action.

It’s after the government changed the vaccine plan last week, removing them as a priority category.

Following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Council, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly revealed a new plan for the vaccine drive against Covid-19 last Tuesday.

After the medically vulnerable are inoculated, vaccine doses are now to be prioritised by age only.

It came as a shock to teachers who had been expecting all school staff to be among the first third of the population to receive a dose.

ASTI President Ann Piggott says it’s not the last eight weeks before the summer term they’re worried about.

Since yesterday the leadership of the ASTI, TUI and INTO have been working on the text of a motion aiming to hold the government to the original commitment.

They will all debate motions for industrial action at their national conferences this week.

INTO Vice-President and Carlow Kilkenny representative Joe McKeown’s told KCLR News “What we’re saying today is that we’re going to wait and hear what the Minister has to say, we hope that when the Minister comes today that she’ll acknowledge we’ve genuine concerns and indicate how she’s going to address them and after we’ve heard that we’ll decide how we’ll proceed tomorrow morning”.

Mr McKeown will be addressing fellow delegates when the conference opens at 9:30am, saying “This morning we’ll be talking about the supports and the investments in primary education that’s needed and specifically we’ll be saying that the extra money that was given last Summer to schools to help them reopen needs to be maintained, it’s very clear that schools need to be cleaned at all times, not just during a pandemic and they need to have hot running water at all times and they need investment in IT at all times and so we’ll be saying that investment needs to continue next year and for many years after”.

Other issues featuring prominently on the conference agendas are reforms to the state exams, staffing levels, pay for younger teachers, and class sizes.

TUI president Martin Marjoram says the pandemic has exposed a real shortage of substitutes, and it’s been harder for young teachers to stay on the job.

Any ballot on industrial action will have to be issued to teachers at their workplaces.

That means it’s not likely to stop the remainder of students now attending class from home from returning to their desks after the Easter break.