Quinn wants to keep some extra payments

 

ALLOWANCES:THE MINISTER for Education says he is battling to protect some €500 million in additional allowances paid to teachers annually.

The three teacher unions signalled their readiness yesterday to begin industrial action if these allowances are withdrawn. Any such action, they say, would represent a breach of the Croke Park agreement.

Interviewed at the Irish National Teachers Organisation conference yesterday, Ruairí Quinn said he regarded the various management, qualification and other allowances as “an integral part” of the salary paid to teachers.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin is reviewing the payment of all public service allowances.

Mr Quinn said while “no one could rest assured”, he was confident that Mr Howlin – a former teacher – acknowledged the need for the teaching profession to attract graduates of the highest calibre.

Recent figures show a marked decline in teaching applications, especially at second level, amid concerns about the high rate of graduate unemployment and cuts in pay to new entrants.

Last month it was revealed how primary and post-primary teachers had received €2.5 billion in allowances, separate from pay and increments, over the past five years. In 2011 more than €506 million was paid in allowances. Primary teachers received €312.9 million, while post-primary teachers were in receipt of €193.2 million last year. In 2007 the figure was €475 million.

There are 11 categories of allowances, including the qualification allowance for educational attainment beyond a teacher’s original degree. It was the single largest allowance, totalling more than €236.6 million last year. Other teacher allowances include yard supervision duties (€76.3 million); a position of responsibility allowance such as school principal or vice-principal (€173.4 million); an allowance for teachers with more than 35 years’ service (€9.8 million); and a payment for teaching in Gaeltacht areas (€2.3 million).

In her address, INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan criticised cutbacks for new entrants which, she said, was creating a two-tier teaching profession. Such moves would create lasting damage.

On pay, INTO executive Bryan O’Reilly said teachers had been forced to defend a legitimate payment for qualifications and for assuming responsibilities. “The recession has taught us this lesson; the Government must pay teachers a salary commensurate with the levels of qualifications and responsibility. Cease treating our allowances as some sort of extra.”

He said a Lidl trainee manager would be paid €16,000, €18,000 and €20,000 during their three years to becoming a manager. The starting salary for a manager in Aldi was €33,000 per annum and a company car. New teaching entrants who assumed responsibility, not for shopping goods but for other people’s children, were paid €27,000, Mr O’Reilly said.

“To add insult to injury, journalists – whose pay and conditions are a national disgrace, apart from the celebrity ones who are way overpaid – are encouraged to be constantly and unreasonably critical of our pay and conditions.”

“Let our employers be warned that we will not be made fools of. We will honour the Croke Park agreement because we entered into it in good faith, but we will not be walked on. The members of the public . . . would want their teachers to earn what the manager of the local supermarket would earn.”