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Teacher unions prepares for a strike demanding priority in vaccination

DUBLIN: Teacher unions are preparing for industrial action against new changes to the COVID-19 vaccination system, which will make age the only criterion for vaccination. The government’s decision to vaccinate citizens purely based on their age, with no other considerations, has sparked opposition from teacher unions. Teachers are outraged, fearing that many young teachers will not receive the vaccine on time.

Teachers had earlier demanded vaccination, pointing out that they are more likely to contract COVID-19 when working in classrooms. The annual meetings of the three major unions, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) are taking place this week. Their main agenda is the priority in vaccination. Their strike is expected to disrupt school activities this month. The government’s decision to send all categories of children to the classroom by April 12 may also be in jeopardy.

“It is essential that teachers and all key workers should continue to be prioritised after vulnerable people and the elderly are vaccinated,” INTO spokesperson said. The unions are unanimous in calling for the vaccination of all those working at the frontline. “There was no consultation with this union or prior notification regarding this drastic change, which is certain to affect our members’ confidence about safety at work,” spokesperson said.

“We are calling on TDs and the Government to ensure our profession is prioritised among the Category 9 group working in crowded settings in order to ensure priority vaccination for our members once the vulnerable and elderly are first protected,” a spokesperson for the INTO added. 

Michael Gillespie, General Secretary of the TUI, said that a decision on the strike program will be taken at a meeting beginning today. “It only occurred last Tuesday where teachers who thought they were being prioritised in terms of essential workers – they weren’t expecting to be ahead of anybody,” Gillespie said.

“If you can vaccinate teachers then you protect the sustainable re-opening of schools, once they’re vaccinated. The Government has stated continuously that one of the things it wants to open up fully is schools. If you want to keep schools open, then you vaccinate them,” he added.

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