By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — There is increasing concern about the Irish government’s ability to set state exams, particularly the Leaving Certificate, for which 63,000 pupils are due to sit in June, as the secondary school teachers dispute remains deadlocked.
The 16,500 strong Association of Secondary Teachers plans to start a series of regional one-day strikes around the country from next Tuesday, Jan. 16. It will refuse to cooperate with preparations for the Leaving and Junior Certificates beginning Feb. 3.
The teachers are seeking a 30 percent pay increase and have opted out of the national pay deal, the Program for Prosperity and Fairness. Since the dispute started, pupils have lost nine days of classes.
The dispute worsened last weekend when the ASTI’s 180-member executive council rejected a pay plan that was proposed just before Christmas.
The offer involved the payment of the docked money.
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The teachers lost money for days when they had previously staged one-day strikes. What they object to is the docking of three days’ pay when they "worked to rule" and refused to supervise break times.
Schools told pupils not to come in on those days, but the teachers say there were available to teach in classrooms.
ASTI General Secretary Charlie Lennon, who backed the deducted pay repayment offer, said teachers were "extremely angry" about the docking of their pay."
Lennon said he "very much regretted" that Leaving Certificate pupils were being disrupted.
He said it would be "extremely difficult" to run the exams without his members, who monitor and correct the exams.
With no cooperation from the ASTI, any attempt to use other teachers, university lecturers or retired teachers could complicate the dispute further or even spread it to the teachers Union of Ireland and the Irish National Teachers Organization.