IMPACT has written to education minister Richard Bruton, setting out the issues that last month led an overwhelming number of special needs assistants (SNAs) to vote for industrial action . Deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan said SNAs were committed to the children they support and had not taken the decision lightly.
On the delay in publishing the SNA allocations, Kevin said that the effect was to “completely undermine” the reasonable operation of two agreements made with the department. These include provisions for redeployment under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement, and provisions to prevent the fragmentation of SNA posts under the 2015 Lansdowne Road agreement. Kevin added that the agreements would be less important “if SNAs enjoyed normal public service job security.”
The letter also responded to the department’s reported ‘surprise’ to the SNA ballot result, which Kevin said was “difficult to take seriously.”
He added that a recent announcement by the department, in relation to changes in the method of SNA annual provision, had not been discussed with IMPACT. He said the union would need to understand the full context before it could comment with approval on the proposed new measures.
Kevin also criticised the current comprehensive review of the SNA scheme. “We know nothing about the comprehensive review taking place. It is very difficult to establish who exactly is participating in these processes. One thing is certain: IMPACT is not,” he said.
Officials at the Department of Education and Skills contacted IMPACT recently proposing discussions about the issues in dispute. In a nationwide ballot of four SNA branches, 97% backed industrial action, up to and including strike action if necessary.
The ballot seeks to achieve the following:
•A guarantee that, in future, SNA allocations will be announced in sufficient time (no later than May) to allow the Supplementary Assignment Panel – and distribution of available hours to serving staff – operate to full effect
•Arrangements in respect of job security on a par with teachers and other public servants
•An agreed procedure for dealing with SNA grievances and issues (including proposals to resolve or refer to an agreed process all outstanding cases).