Government to issue response to calls for public sector pay rises

INTO seeks ‘substantial pay uplifts’ as it warns of need to ensure ‘industrial harmony’

The Government has acknowledged the impact of rising inflation on salaries and plans to respond to calls for pay rises from public sector unions shortly.

It follows demands from the State’s biggest teachers’ union, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), for “substantial pay uplifts” to compensate for the rising cost of living.

As teachers' Easter conferences got under way on Monday, INTO president Joe McKeown told the opening of the union's annual congress in Killarney that pay increases were needed to ensure "industrial harmony".

The push for significant pay rises will be echoed at the annual conference of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), which takes place in Wexford, and that of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI), which is meeting in Cork.

Minister for Education Norma Foley, who is due to address delegates at all three conferences this week, has said teachers' pay is part of a wider public sector discussion between unions and the Government.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said he would respond to public sector unions shortly on the issue of pay.

“The current period of very high inflation is having an impact on the cost of living people across society are facing, including our public servants,” he said.

“I acknowledge that the current public service pay deal was negotiated in a very different environment in terms of inflation, and it has delivered a welcome period of industrial peace.”

Mr McGrath said public sector unions had triggered the review mechanism in the Building Momentum pay deal. He said the prior engagement required between both sides as part of the review clause had taken place in the form of a meeting last week between his officials and the public services committee of Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

“I will be meeting my officials in the coming days and will consider the available options in relation to next steps. I anticipate we will be formally responding to the unions shortly,” he added.

Warnings

While Government sources have indicated that some response on this issue may be needed, some have warned against inflation-matching pay increases given cost concerns.

The Central Bank, which has raised its full-year inflation forecast to 6.5 per cent, has also warned that salary increases may result in a longer period of "harmfully higher inflation".

The INTO congress is to debate an emergency motion on Tuesday calling for immediate talks with the Government to deliver “substantial pay uplifts” to compensate for the rising living costs.

Mr McKeown said that while public pay agreements provided “much-needed stability and security”, the “serious erosion of our standard of living caused by the recent increase in inflation has to be addressed urgently by Government if industrial harmony is to continue”.

He said no recently qualified teacher could reasonably expect under current conditions to be able to afford to buy a house in most parts of Ireland.

“For many, even rented accommodation is out of reach. Unless we address this critical issue we will see another exodus of our young and talented teachers as they seek out destinations where their reasonable aspirations are more likely to be realised. Who will teach our children then?”

Accommodation crisis

The TUI, meanwhile, has published a survey indicating that availability of affordable accommodation is emerging as a severe problem for teachers.

An online poll of 1,200 members this month and last found that almost three-quarters of those appointed after 2011 did not believe it would be possible for them to get mortgage approval for a property in or near the area where they work.

The TUI conference will also hear a motion for the current public sector pay deal to be immediately renegotiated to protect members from rising inflation. The motion will seek a ballot for industrial action on the issue, if necessary.

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