Unions promise to overturn teachers' pay cuts

Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 01:00

A TEACHERS’ union leader has declared that the cuts in pay for new entrants to the profession will be overturned “no matter how long it takes.’’

Irish National Teachers Organisation president Anne Fay made the commitment in an address to several thousand teachers who protested last night against cuts to pay for new entrants and continuing cuts to the education sector.

The protest march organised by the three teacher unions comes after changes to new entry grades.

In 2009, new entrants to the profession earned about €41,000. But a raft of budget and other cuts has cut the starting salary to €32,000. The cuts have already been imposed on at least 3,000 teachers. Two thousand more – due to graduate from teacher training college next year – also face this cut.

The “Valuing Education” protest at the Dáil was supported by hundreds of student teachers and recently qualified teachers.

Ms Fay described the pay cuts for new teachers as an affront to the core trade union principle of equal pay for equal work.

“The teacher unions oppose that decision and will overturn it no matter how long it takes.”

Yvonne Rossiter, a newly qualified teacher, said the treatment of new teachers was everyone’s concern: “If we devalue the work of one teacher we short-change every student and every teacher in our schools.”

Teachers Union of Ireland president Gerry Craughwell said his union was committed to a campaign against the savage, sustained and disproportionate attack on the pay of new entrants to the teaching profession since 2011.

“We will mobilise all teachers in defence of the profession and to restore equal pay for equal work. A teaching colleague being paid at a lesser rate is wrong, damaging and an anathema to collegiality.’’

This race to the bottom, he said, will eventually impoverish everybody and will deprive the country of one of its most important competitive advantages – a high-quality, highly regarded public education system.

The teacher unions have been criticised by some young teachers for being complicit with Government in the creation of a two-tier teaching force. But many of the newly qualified teachers who attended last night’s march said they were grateful for the support of the unions. Union leaders also warned about further education cuts as the Government seeks €77 million in savings in next month’s budget. Ms Fay pointed out primary schools already have the lowest funding and biggest classes. “They are on the breadline already. There is no room for further cuts,” she said.

Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland president Gerry Breslin told the crowd schools had endured four years of anti-education budgets: “A cut to the pupil/ teacher ratio does not mean one extra pupil in a class. It means schools dropping key subjects such as physics and modern languages. It means amalgamating classes so that every student has less time to interact in the classroom and less time to learn. It means reduced access to vital services such as resource teaching and guidance counselling. It means young temporary teachers – the lifeblood of our schools – lose their jobs.”

Mr Craughwell also railed at the increasing casualisation of teaching. Many of our talented, enthusiastic new teachers and lecturers are attempting to survive, he said, in part-time positions, with mere fragments of jobs.

“They are struggling to build a career on incomes which don’t provide a basic standard of living. The TUI is here to demand that these teachers have a right to jobs not just hours.”