Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said that discussions with the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland will continue today ahead of industrial action due to begin tomorrow.
However, Mr Bruton said he was not optimistic that tomorrow’s strike could be averted.
ASTI members are to strike tomorrow for the first of seven days between now and December in a dispute over pay for newly-qualified teachers and payment for supervision and substitution duties.
They will withdraw from supervision and substitution from 7 November.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Bruton said: “We are continuing to discuss with the ASTI today and we will be setting out what we have agreed with the other unions which includes substantial increases for newly-qualified teachers, but I’d have to say that, at this point, the ASTI have not given any indication that they intend to pull back from this strike tomorrow, so it’s hard to say at this stage that you could be optimistic.”
Mr Bruton said that there is a substantial amount on the table and that the Government must be fair to all of the concerns that all of the unions have.
It would not, he said, be fair to do sectoral deals with individual unions and there have been cuts for new recruits in every trade union.
Mr Bruton said it is difficult to see how schools can be kept open after the midterm break.
He added that if union members withdraw from core duties, resulting in the closure of schools, they will not be paid for the days the school is shut.
However, he said if other teachers are making themselves available for work, then they will be paid.
It appears likely that 525 schools, two thirds of the country’s second-level education centres, will close tomorrow, affecting a quarter of a million students.
Schools managements have been putting contingency plans in place, while there will be a knock-on effect for employers as many parents take time off work to look after their children at home.
There are also concerns that the schools may not be able to reopen at all after the mid-term break, when ASTI members withdraw from supervision and substitution duties.
Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, the other secondary-school teachers’ union, are not involved in the action, but say they will not do the work of their ASTI colleagues.
Many may be reluctant to cross the picket line.
Meanwhile, officials from the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and the Department of Justice will hold more discussions today in relation to pay and negotiating rights ahead of planned industrial action by gardaí on Friday.