Ireland’s teacher unions back plans for industrial action if they are not prioritised for vaccination
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Ireland’s teacher unions back plans for industrial action if they are not prioritised for vaccination

TEACHERS ACROSS Ireland could go on strike unless they are given priority for a Covid-19 vaccine. 

It comes after the three main teacher unions voted for an emergency motion calling for industrial action, and potentially strike action, if they are not prioritised. 

The move follows the Government’s decision to shift to an age-based vaccine roll-out rather than focus primarily on frontline professions. 

It’s a move that has left many teachers angered, with the unions hitting out at the change for being “announced by Government without consultation with workers' representatives". 

The union motion is calling for the Government to reinstate school staff as a priority group given "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". 

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It adds  that "social distancing is problematic and not assured given the crowded nature, structure and layout of our workplaces". 

The motion also calls for the early vaccination of teachers in higher risk categories, pregnant staff and those who work in special schools or in home school community liaison roles. 

"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". 

The motion was set out during the annual conferences of the Teachers' Union of Ireland, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation and the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, which were held online this year. 

Minister for Education Norma Foley has defended the change, explaining that age is the strongest consideration when it comes to vaccinations.  

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, she explained that the decision was based purely on the science. 

Foley said "it has never been in the gift of the Department of Education ... to make a promise on vaccination priority ... the vaccination schedule was designed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and endorsed by public health". 

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She added that schools have proven to be areas of low transmission for Covid-19.