Teachers’ pay: Foley says talks over new public sector pay deal to begin shortly

Union conferences hear demands that salaries increase to match rate of inflation

Minister for Education Norma Foley has said talks over a new or extended public sector pay deal will begin shortly amid demands from teachers’ unions for inflation-matching pay increases.

Speaking at the annual congress of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) on Tuesday morning, 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 at this time.

All three teachers’ unions - the INTO, Teachers’ Union of Ireland and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland - are demanding pay increases at their annual conferences to compensate for the rising cost of living.


The Central Bank has raised its full-year forecast for inflation to 6.5 per cent and warned that salary increases could results in a longer period of “harmfully higher inflation”.

Teachers, along with other public servants, are due to receive a 1 per cent pay increase in October next under the current pay deal, which expires at the end of the year.

Responding to Ms Foley, INTO general secretary John Boyle 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.

While industrial action was “not on the agenda” for the INTO, Mr Boyle said that if the public sector pay deal collapses, unions will be “in a new place”.

Ms Foley also told the congress said her department is working to ensure that Ukrainian children of school-going age arriving into Ireland are supported to continue their education in Ireland.

She said officials have commenced strategic planning for the “potentially large numbers of children” that may arrive in Ireland.

“Our schools are already welcoming children who have arrived from Ukraine. It is yet another testament to the well-earned reputation of schools to be inclusive, welcoming and nurturing places in our communities,” she said.

Ms Foley said education “one stop shops” have been established to help source school places and access language supports.

In relation to class sizes, Ms Foley said there is a Government commitment to seek to make further progress in reducing the pupil teacher ratios in primary schools. I have worked to achieve that goal.

She said this year’s Budget as brought the teacher allocation ratio in all primary schools to the lowest ever seen at primary level, with average class sizes now at 23 pupils per teacher.

Ms Foley received applause from delegates when she said society must have “zero tolerance” for violence against any member of the community and was mindful of the terrible events in Sligo in recent days.

“Education and schools cannot solve every societal ill but as I have previously said, schools that embrace diversity, tolerance and a culture of respect for all are an important building block for the kind of society that we all want to see for today’s children…”

Mr Boyle, meanwhile, said teachers have stood up for their pupils by demanding extra supports for principals and substitute teacher supply panels.

While this were provided, he said it should not have taken a public health crisis to secure these supports.

He said teachers have opened their “hearts and their schools” to welcome Ukrainian pupils and will work to meet the challenge of meeting newly arrived refugee children “head-on”.

Mr Boyle said class sizes will remain the highest in the European Union and said the Minister had a rare opportunity to end the scourge of “super-sized classes” and overcrowding. “Our children deserve nothing less,” he said.

He also highlighted the “deplorable” plight of children with additional needs on long waiting lists for therapeutic supports and called for on-site counselling and access to multi-disciplinary teams.

Meanwhile, the ASTI said teachers were struggling with the increased cost of living.

In an interview on Newstalk Breakfast, the union’s president Eamon Dennehy said every worker in the country is aware that the cost of living has gone up by an enormous amount.

“Probably by 6 or 8 percent in just one year already. Our wages have to match that. Indeed the wages of teachers have been depressed enough over the last ten or twelve years. We have a two tier payment system. What will have to happen here is that there will have to be wage negotiations about that.

“An awful lot of changes are made without negotiations. I think this time all trade unions, the ASTI included, need to be recognised as the people who represent their membership and should be talked to about changes for example to their working conditions, etc. So we would be looking for that.”

He added that Ms Foley will be made aware of “key messages” at the ASTI conference in Cork on Tuesday.

“The key message to her will be that our voices need to be heard in our profession. The Minister is very welcome to our convention.”