A Labour Party motion, which seeks to protect the rights of special needs assistants (SNAs) and recognise their important role in the schools system, was carried in the Seanad last week. The motion condemned “the July publication of SNA allocations in 2017, which caused enormous uncertainty for SNAs.”
The move follows the overwhelming endorsement of industrial action in a recent ballot of IMPACT SNA members. IMPACT organiser Olajide Ogidan said: “The motion was significant because it is in support of IMPACT’s position. It is asking the education department to do what IMPACT is asking,” he said.
In an interview with IMPACT, Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordain, who moved the motion, said: “When a group of people known for their compassion and for their work with very vulnerable children are turning to potential industrial action, that’s quite a significant development.”
The Seanad motion is a significant moment in the context of a wider shift where SNAs and their rights are concerned. Kevin Callinan, IMPACT’s deputy general secretary and national secretary for education, explains: “Since we announced the ballot in July, and since members voted, the Government has changed its position on funding SNA allocations.”
In a letter to the the education department, Kevin said it “has already approved the funding of the announced SNA numbers for 2018-19”. He writes, too, that allocations will be known “no later than May.”
On the motion, Kevin says that it “was about respect for SNAs.” He said that “that respect needs to be achieved through normal employment arrangements for SNAs.”
IMPACT has written back to the Department to progress other issues, including job security.
For more on this story you can listen to our extended audio report here.
This audio report is also available for download HERE (mp3).