Two of Ireland’s largest teachers’ unions are to ballot members for industrial action - up to and including strikes - next month over public sector pay.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), which has more than 43,000 members at primary level in the State, said it took the decision on Wednesday after a meeting of its central executive committee.
It was followed by the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), the country’s main second level teachers’ union with some 18,500 members, which said it would also ballot members following a meeting of its standing committee.
Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Michael Gillespie said the union’s executive committee would meet to discuss the matter on Thursday. However, he said it is “expected that we will ballot members in September on either a revised pay offer or on a coordinated public service campaign designed to achieve such an offer”.
All three unions previously indicated they would take joint action with a “co-ordinated public service campaign” if their demands for pay rises were not met within weeks.
A combined 5 per cent salary increase over two years was proposed by Government officials earlier this year and rejected by workers as “not credible”. The Workplace Relations Commission has issued invitations to the sides to return to the discussions which stalled in June. Talks are expected to resume in the coming weeks.
The INTO said the ballot of its members would go ahead “unless the Government’s irresponsible procrastination on public sector pay talks ends quickly with a respectable pay offer put on the table”. It said the decision was taken “in solidarity” with all workers across the public service who are “battling accelerating inflation and steep increases in the cost of living”.
INTO president John Driscoll called on the Government to “urgently return to negotiations with a respectable pay offer” that unions could put to a ballot of their members.
“It beggars belief that – at a time when exchequer returns are in a broadly positive space – the Government is engaging in delay tactics, seemingly forgetting the trojan work of public servants during the recent pandemic,” he said.
ASTI president Miriam Duggan also pointed to teachers and other public sector workers attempting to cope with cost of living increases. The union is recommending that its members vote for industrial action in the ballot.
“A significant improvement in pay is essential to help offset spiralling inflation,” she said. “Teachers in common with other public sector workers are finding it difficult to make ends meet. It is very disappointing that the Government is showing such scant regard for public servants in light of all they contributed at the height of the pandemic.”