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07th Apr 2021

Teachers unions back motion for industrial action

Jade Hayden

The motion was decided on today.

Three teachers unions have backed an emergency motion in favour of industrial action.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and the Association of Secondary Teachers met yesterday to discuss potential strike action over the country’ vaccine priority list.

Under the current jab schedule, teachers and SNAs are set to receive their Covid-19 vaccines with the rest of the population.

According to RTÉ News, the unions say changes to Ireland’s vaccine schedule were “announced by Government without consultation with workers’ representatives.”

The motion, which includes strike action as a possibility, says that teachers should be moved up the vaccine priority list as “the essential nature of their work which requires them to be in daily contact with a large number of people from a large number of households” and because “social distancing is problematic and not assured given the crowded nature, structure and layout of our workplaces.”

It says: “In the event that Government does not agree to schedule by the end of the current school year, vaccinations on the basis demanded above, Convention mandates a ballot of members for industrial action, up to and including strike action.”

Unions said earlier this week that any strike action will not affect the reopening of schools after Easter break. Rather, action would likely be planned for later on this year, potentially disrupting primary school’s current academic year or the next academic year at secondary level.

According to reports, INTO is looking at potential strike action in May or June of this year, while secondary school teachers’ unions are considering September.

A government spokesperson said earlier this week that the current vaccine system is “based on medical advice to protect the most medically vulnerable in society.”

“The evidence has shown age is by far the biggest factor in serious illness, hospitalisation and mortality due to Covid-19,” they said. “Many essential workers have played an important part since the start of the pandemic.

“The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has explained the rationale to various stakeholders, and based on the medical advice this is the safest and swiftest way to roll the vaccine programme out.”