Vaccine priority: All three teacher unions agree to ballot for industrial action if government doesn’t meet demands

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The three unions tabled a joint motion on the issue.

ALL THREE TEACHERS’ unions have passed a motion calling for prioritisation in the vaccination programme and a ballot for industrial action, including strike, if the government does not meet their demands.

The three unions – the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) – had agreed to table a joint motion on the issue at their annual conferences, which began yesterday.

The motion condemns the recent changes to the priority listing for teachers within the national vaccination programme and demands the government re-instates education staff as a priority group within the national vaccination programme.

The motion also demands early vaccination within the overall cohort of education staff of pregnant teachers, those in higher risk categories and those who work in special schools, special classes and home school community liaison teachers.

If the government does not agree to prioritise teachers in the programme by the end of the current school year, the motion mandates a ballot of members for industrial action up to and including strike.

Minister Foley told Morning Ireland the decision to shift to an age-based vaccine roll-out was not “a value judgement” on any profession but based on the available science. 

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When asked if false promises had been made to teachers to get them back to work earlier this year, Foley said the Department indicted “every step of the way” that it would adapt and accept the recommendation of public health officials, adding that schools are proven to be areas of low transmission. 

She said she is asking everyone within the education sector to abide by public health.

The vast majority of those working within the education sector are very conscious of the need to cater for those who are most vulnerable. We now know unequivocally that the most vulnerable are those who have particular age cohorts. They are the individuals who should be catered for first. 

On the possibility of strike action, Foley said: “I do appreciate that this is a disappointment for the education sector, and indeed other sectors that have been impacted, but equally so, I know the education sector…their priority is to accept the scientific evidence and cater for those who are most vulnerable in the midst of this pandemic.”

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