Teacher strike threat shelved as talks over new public sector pay deal begin

Unions seek ‘significant’ increases to combat spiralling inflation

A teacher union threat to ballot for industrial action over pay increases to combat spiralling inflation has been shelved as talks over a new public sector pay deal get underway.

The Association of Secondary Teachers' of Ireland (ASTI) agreed on Tuesday to park a motion to ballot on potential strike action over pay after members agreed it was premature in advance of talks with the Government on pay.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) general secretary John Boyle also said industrial action was "not on the agenda", but warned that if the public sector pay deal collapses, unions will be "in a new place".

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) is due to debate motions on pay on Wednesday at its conference in Wexford.


Minister for Education Norma Foley told teacher union conferences that talks over a new or extended public sector pay deal will begin shortly amid demands from teachers' unions for inflation-matching pay increases.

She said the Government was “strongly aware” of the cost of living pressures being felt across all of society.

Ms Foley said the Government has already delivered a “substantial package of €2 billion” to help families.

Mr Boyle of the INTO said the public sector pay deal is “no longer fit for purpose” and warned that it would collapse soon if not improved upon quickly.

“Every teacher’s household is feeling the pinch. Purchasing power has already shrunk by at least 7 per cent due to surging prices. Yet, our members are promised a measly 1 per cent uplift next October. That’s only a quarter of a percent for 2022. It will not suffice,” he said.

He said there will be “robust” talks over pay increases to compensate members for losses linked to the rising cost of living.

Pay discrimination

Michael Gillespie, TUI general secretary said "significant pay increases" will be needed to counter the increasing cost of living,

He said spiralling costs mean it is costing teachers a lot of money simply to go to work.

“Energy, fuel and food costs have all increased very steeply over the last several months. Teachers who moved outside the M50 in search of affordable homes or affordable rents now find the cost of fuel prohibitive in making the necessary daily commute to work,” he said.

Mr Gillespie also said pay discrimination, which sees teachers who entered the profession after 2011 paid less than their colleagues, remains as an outstanding sore.

TUI members recently agreed to forgo a planned one per cent pay increase to their younger colleagues in order to narrow this gap, but Mr Gillespie said that the union was seeking a full return to pay equality.

“The money to end this scandal, to right this wrong is available,” said Mr Gillespie. “It’s our money and it’s in the exchequer coffers. In effect, it is being donated by teachers themselves to solve this long-standing issue. It shouldn’t have to be, but it is.”

At the ASTI annual convention in Cork, members agreed to shelve a motion calling on the union to ballot members in September with a view to taking industrial action up to and including strike action unless a number of demands were met.

Proposing the motion, 31 year old teacher Christopher Davey of Carlow said pay inequality has impacted on all teachers who joined the profession since 2011.

“Thousands of Irish teachers, scattered up and down the country, scattered on many continents have had their 20s pass them by ... the demeaning scale imposed on us has been demoralising and is causing younger teachers to leave the profession,” he said.

However, ASTI president-elect, Miriam Duggan counselled against backing the motion at this stage, proposing instead that the motion should be referred back to the union's standing committee for consideration.

She said the union needed to engage in talks with the government before holding any ballots.