Teachers threatening to ballot on industrial action over pay disparity

INTO president says pay inequality is causing young teachers to emigrate

Almost 24,000 teachers earn less than their colleagues for the same work as a result of salary reductions introduced for new appointees since 2011

Almost 24,000 teachers earn less than their colleagues for the same work as a result of salary reductions introduced for new appointees since 2011

 

Teachers are threatening to ballot on industrial action before the summer unless the Government restores pay equality in the sector.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) are set to debate emergency motions on Tuesday calling on the Government to produce proposals by early May which “have the capacity to achieve a resolution of all aspects of pay inequality”.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) is likely to follow suit.

Almost 24,000 teachers earn less than their colleagues for the same work as a result of salary reductions introduced for new appointees since 2011.

Speaking in Killarney on the opening day of the INTO’s 150th annual conference, the union’s president John Boyle said pay equality was not up for debate. Yet he said that any move to “shut down schools” would not take place before the beginning of the next school year, depending on how talks progressed.

Union leaders across the three organisations are finalising plans to present their delegates with the same motion or very similar motions at their respective conferences this week on the restoration of pay equality.

Defending the Government’s actions to date, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said pay increases of 15-22 per cent for newly qualified teachers agreed in 2016 had narrowed the pay gap by up to 75 per cent.

The cost of reversing the two-tier pay system entirely across the public sector is about €200 million, according to a report published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Society

Addressing delegates, Mr Boyle said the current pay agreement had failed to deliver pay equality, and this was why it had been rejected by all three teaching unions.

“Teachers, while relieved that their pay has finally started to be restored, are deeply resentful of the two-tier salary system in staffrooms. Until we get equality in education we won’t have an equal and inclusive society.”

Mr Boyle said that a person who entered the profession in 2012 would earn €100,000 less than a 2010 entrant over the course of their career, while a 2017 entrant is set to earn €56,000 less than a 2010 entrant. This translates into annual losses of between €1,400 and €2,500.

He said the pay disparity was causing young teachers to emigrate, and blamed it for the current shortage of substitute teachers, which has seen a number of retired primary school teachers brought back to provide cover.

“Is it any wonder so many teachers have moved to other countries where their expertise is valued?” he asked. “Children’s achievement levels will fall in a few years’ time if the substitution crisis is not dealt with immediately. They get one chance at primary education, and are entitled to a fully qualified teacher every day.”

Mr Boyle also said Mr Bruton should reinstate the teacher supply panels which were abandoned by government in 2010. These covered teacher absences and administration days for teaching principals.

He added that primary school principals were treated “shabbily” because the system was underfunded, under-resourced and under-supported.

“Every teaching principal must have one administrative day free from teaching duties every school week with guaranteed substitute cover. Where a primary school has two special classes – regardless of enrolment – then an administrative principal should be appointed.”

In 2007, the Public Service Benchmarking Body recommended that principals and deputies in primary schools should be given increased responsibility allowances, but Mr Boyle pointed out that this never happened, and as a result they had lost thousands of euro.

Capitation funding

He called on the Government to pay primary principals and deputies the same allowances as their post-primary colleagues in schools of the same size, and to bring the capitation funding for primary schools in line with those of the post-primary sector.

With a forum on teacher workload due to begin its work shortly, Mr Boyle said schools were constantly handed down new initiatives from the Department of Education without adequate resources, training or consultation.

“Teachers need time to teach and time to think. The art of teaching must take priority over the craft of paperwork, while class sizes – still the second highest in the European Union – should be reduced to the European average of 20:1.”