INTO to take part in new Government review of pay equality

Union faces backlash from members over decision to participate in the evaluation

 INTO members attend a rally for pay equality for lower-paid teachers outside the Dáil, Kildare Street, Dublin, in December 2016. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

INTO members attend a rally for pay equality for lower-paid teachers outside the Dáil, Kildare Street, Dublin, in December 2016. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) is to take part in a new Government review of pay equality.

The union said the plans by the Government to bring forward a review of the controversial two-tier pay system in the public sector represented “a significant advance” on measures set out in the new Public Service Stability Agreement on public pay.

Members of the primary-school teachers’ union rejected the recently-agreed Public Service Stability Agreement in a ballot, mainly on the grounds that it did not tackle the pay gap.

The union’s executive decided on Friday to participate in the Government review.

However, a spokesman for the union said this did not mean it was signing up to the new pay agreement.

In a statement on Friday, the union said: “In a context where the Public Service Stability Agreement has been accepted by a large majority of public service workers and where the review of pay equality issues will commence in October 2017, the [INTO] central executive council decided that it is in the best interest of members, and in particular of post-January 2011 entrants, that INTO participate and actively represent members in the reviews of both pay equality and of the outstanding principals’ award.

“The INTO has progressed pay equality in two previous agreements [the Haddington Road Agreement and the Lansdowne Road Agreement] and is determined to do so further in the context of the Public Service Stability Agreement.”

When asked if the union’s position meant it was now accepting the new pay deal, a spokesman said this was not the case.

“There is no requirement to sign up to anything. We are responding to the vote of our members who rejected the agreement not because of what was in the deal, but because of what wasn’t,” he said.

“They wanted us to pursue pay inequality, which is what we’re doing.”

Backlash

An activist group within the INTO criticised the decision of the union’s leadership to engage with the pay equality review.

Glór, a group of activists in the INTO, said in a statement on Saturday: “We are appalled by the decision of our union leadership to enter into talks with the Government under the umbrella of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), despite the 89 per cent rejection of the deal by union members.

“The reaction which we have received from union members across the country shows that many union members - and especially lower-paid teachers - are equally appalled, with many threatening to discontinue their union membership.

“In the PSSA, it is clearly stated that the review which our leadership has now decided to participate in ‘. . . will discuss and agree how the matter [of pay equalisation] can be addressed and implemented in a manner that does not give rise to implications for the fiscal envelope of this agreement.’ It is clear therefore that pay equalisation cannot be achieved by any talks that take place in the context of this deal.

“If the leadership wish to enter talks, let it be done outside of the context of the PSSA and with a mandate for industrial action to strengthen their negotiating hand.”

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland has also rejected the new public service pay agreement and its members have backed industrial action, although it has given no indication as to if or when this could take place.

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland is due to ballot members on the agreement next month. Its central executive has recommended that members reject the agreement.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton has signalled that teaching unions will be eligible for pay restoration provided under the deal as long as they do not “repudiate” the agreement.

Repudiation would lead to union members forfeiting pay improvements of between 6 and 7 per cent over three years and facing the threat of financial penalties under emergency legislation.