IMPACT’s 8,000 special needs assistants (SNAs) members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action over recurring delays, by the Department of Education and Skills, to publish SNA allocations before the end of the academic year.
In a nationwide ballot of four SNA branches, 97% backed industrial action, up to and including strike action if necessary.
IMPACT assistant general secretary Barry Cunningham said the ballot result demonstrated the depth of feeling among SNAs over the issue. “The delays have meant that SNAs don’t know if they have a job to return to the following school year, but are unable to apply for redeployment in the event that they don’t.
“This year marked the fourth successive year of delay, as the allocations weren’t published until July. We have tried to raise this as an issue with the department year after year. Our members reached the conclusion that the department simply isn’t listening, and their frustration is expressed in the huge support for this ballot,” he said.
The ballot of SNAs is for industrial action, up to and including strike action, to achieve:
- 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).
Barry said the union’s Education executive will meet shortly to consider the next steps. He said the union will seek to open a discussion with the department to resolve the issues, but that the determination of IMPACT’s SNA membership wasn’t to be underestimated. “We expect a positive result from the department. They cannot ignore the concerns of SNAs any longer. That has been clearly expressed in this ballot result,” he said.
IMPACT has welcomed the additional 1,000 extra SNA posts announced this week as part of Budget 2018.
Barry Cunningham said the expansion of SNA services is both timely and necessary. “The increase is a welcome sign that the importance of investment, into special education services, is being recognised by the Government. However, the increase in SNA numbers is another factor that demands a more timely publication of the school term SNA allocations,” he said.
The Department of Education & Skills has confirmed to IMPACT that the total number of additional posts is 1,091. Of these, 130 posts will be available between January and June 2018, with the balance of posts from September 2018.
“This will make a difference to children with special education needs and their families all over the country. Demand continues to grow for this vital education service, so the additional investment is welcome,” he said.
News coverage: Special Needs Assistants vote in favour of industrial action (RTE, includes report from RTE’s SixOne news Saturday 14th October 2017)