Teachers’ unions will ‘shut down schools’ if pay parity not addressed

Almost 24,000 teachers earn less than their colleagues for the same work

The Department of Education on Marlborough Street.  The President of the INTO is warning that all three teachers’ unions “will be shutting down schools” if the Government does not address the issue of pay parity. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

The Department of Education on Marlborough Street. The President of the INTO is warning that all three teachers’ unions “will be shutting down schools” if the Government does not address the issue of pay parity. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

The president of the INTO is warning that all three teachers’ unions “will be shutting down schools” if the Government does not address the issue of pay parity.

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.

John Boyle says that the INTO, which represents teachers at primary level, is determined “to push on” and that if they need to take industrial action they will do so at the beginning of the next school year.

Mr Boyle told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he has been in close discussions with the other two teachers’ unions and they are all agreed that “if we have to pull the plug we will do so.”

Mr Boyle acknowledged that “the heavy lifting” on pay parity negotiations had been completed, but the “last pieces” had to be concluded.

“Our patience is running thin. The cuts to the teachers were disproportionate. We are three to four points behind on the scale (public service pay).

“We have more cuts to fight than anyone else.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has been accused of “blaming” trade unions for not prioritising the restoration of pay for new entrant teachers in recent public sector pay talks.

In comments made before an Oireachtas education committee last week, Mr Bruton said the current public sector pay deal provided for significant pay restoration measures.

However, he added: “In the public service pay agreement, €900 million was provided for and that was negotiated with the trade unions.

“The trade unions didn’t prioritise new entrant pay for that €900 million . . I’m not blaming the unions, but that wasn’t prioritised in the settlement.”

The comment sparked an accusation from Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman, Thomas Byrne TD, that Mr Bruton was laying the blame for the gap in payscales with trade unions.

Pay equality

Fianna Fáil has called for a clear roadmap to achieve pay equality for public sector workers to be agreed by the Government as a matter or urgency.

Department of Education sources insisted on Sunday that Mr Bruton was speaking about the trade union movement as a whole.

And Labour party spokesman on education Senator Aoadhán Ó Ríordán accused Fianna Fáil politicians of “speaking out of both side of their mouths on pay inequality”.

“Pay inequality for newly qualified teachers was introduced by Fianna Fáil in 2011 and remains the one of the last major outstanding legacy issues of the economic collapse.

“The tough talking by FF in recent weeks on the matter is hardly credible when you consider they claim to have co-written the last two budgets introduced by the Fine Gael-led government, ” Mr Ó Ríordán said.

Mr Bruton has pointed out that pay increases of 15- 22 per cent for newly qualified teachers agreed in 2016 have narrowed the gap gap by up to 75 per cent.

A newly qualified teacher straight out of college now has a starting salary of just under €36,000 a year.

In all, about 60,000 public service staff earn less than their colleagues, for the same work, as a result of salary reductions introduced for new appointees since 2011.

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

On foot of this, the Government is set to commence negotiations with trade unions following the Easter conferences.

While most ministers have to date stopped short of firm pledges to end pay inequality, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated for the first time in the Dáil last week that two-tier payscales should end.

Negotiations

He said the Minister for Public Expenditure planned to begin negotiations soon with the trade union movement “with a view to achieving pay equality for public servants over a number of years”.

He added: “It is not the kind of thing we can do either in one go or in one year, but we do want to enter negotiations with the trade unions in the next couple of weeks on a pathway to achieving that.”

All three teachers’ unions will this week hear motions calling for urgent action to end two-tier payscales.

There will also be calls for industrial action if a time-scale to end unequal pay is not agreed soon.

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) will debate a motion at its annual conference in Cork on Tuesday calling for a ballot on industrial action in the absence of progress on the issues.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) already has a mandate for industrial action on the issue and will debate these issues at its gathering in Wexford this week.

Mr Boyle said talks “will come to a crescendo in May” and that teachers want early engagement with the Minister.

“We’ve been talking about this for seven years.”