Delegates vote for legal challenge to starting pay

 

ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY TEACHERS IRELAND:FORTY-YEAR-OLD Robert Chaney held back tears at the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland conference in Cork yesterday as he spoke of his struggle to get a permanent teaching job and its effect on his mental health.

A quarter of all teachers are now employed in temporary or part-time positions. Starting salaries for new entrants have fallen by 30 per cent since 2008.

The second-level teachers’ union yesterday voted in favour of mounting a legal challenge to the pay and conditions of new entrants to teaching under equality legislation.

Newly appointed teachers spend up to eight years in part-time or fixed-term employment with some earning less than €13,000 a year, said general secretary Pat King.

More than 20 per cent of union members – about 3,500 teachers – are on temporary contracts or working part time. The national figure stands at about 27 per cent of qualified teachers.

Debating a motion on the legality of recent changes in pay and conditions for new teachers, delegates heard how new teachers were treated like “migrant workers” in the staffroom and were afraid to turn down requests to take on extra work in case they would lose teaching hours.

“On top of their lower salary and inferior pension newly appointed teachers are faced with several years of uncertainty as they travel from fixed-term job to fixed-term job hoping eventually to get a permanent placement,” said Mr King.

He referred to the Teaching and Learning International Survey (Talis) report which has placed Ireland well above the international average for non-permanency in the first two years of teaching. A total of 93 per cent of Irish teachers spend their first two years in part-time or fixed-contract work compared to an international average of 59 per cent, according to the report, which also states that short-term contracts damage teachers’ effectiveness and morale.

Noel Dempsey of the Teaching Council spoke of an “hours culture” creeping into the profession which saw teaching reduced to a job of hours rather than a career. “You don’t hear of an hour’s Garda or an hour’s nurse,” said Mr Dempsey.

“Those of us with permanent jobs are the gold card members. We might have to take some radical decisions and attack the hours culture on behalf of those that don’t have a voice.”

Mary Linden of Roscrea spoke of a school where classes were taught during the Easter holidays by non-permanent staff too scared to refuse in case they were not asked back in September.

Ciara Kinsella from the Stillorgan, Dublin branch, described 2012 as “the scariest year that non-permanent teachers have faced so far. There is a bleak future facing us. We are the most vulnerable teachers in the union. Seven hundred of us will not be in the system from September.”

Non-permanent teacher Robert Chaney was visibly upset as he described his efforts to get a permanent job. “I have been working in this country for six years and I’m still non-permanent,” he said.

A late entrant to the teaching profession who has worked in schools in Kilkenny and Tipperary, Mr Chaney said he was, like many others, paying a mortgage on a home in negative equity.