Government plays down immediate end to two-tier pay in public sector

Teachers’ unions meet for annual conferences around country

The Government says there is “no comitment to address issues outside the pay agreement at this stage”. File photograph: PA

The Government says there is “no comitment to address issues outside the pay agreement at this stage”. File photograph: PA

 

The Department of Public Expenditure has played down the immediate prospect of a new initiative to end the controversial two -tier pay system in the public service.

On Monday a joint statement agreed between the Government and trade union said issues of outstanding concern in this area would be given full consideration either in a new pay review mechanism agreed by the parties or in the context of the next round of pay talks.

Talks on a successor to the current public service accord are not expected to get under way for about a year while the Government has never publicly given any indication that it would agree to any general pay review mechanism before then.

On foot of queries about the statement the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said on Tuesday the text it had agreed with teaching unions said that outstanding issues relating to the lower-pay arrangements for staff taken on since 2010 “may” be examined by any pay process put in place ahead of talks on a successor agreement should that situation arise.

The department said the Public Service Pay Commission in a report on recruitment and retention difficulties in the health service last August suggested a pay review could be established.

The department said: “There is no commitment to address issues outside [the] pay agreement at this stage”.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh earlier pledged that moves to abolish two-tier pay scales for teachers would be given “full consideration” by the Government over the coming months.

In a speech to the annual congress of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation in Galway, Mr McHugh acknowledged there was “unfinished business” and issues of “outstanding concern” that remain to be addressed.

Teachers’ unions argue that those hired since 2011 continue to face financial losses over the course of their careers compared with their longer-serving colleagues.

Mr McHugh said that, on foot of the statement agreed between the Government and public sector unions on Monday, that these issues would be given “full consideration” in either an upcoming pay review or in the context of the new round of pay talks.

Secondary teachers

Meanwhile delegates at the annual conference of the secondary teachers’ union, the ASTI in Wexford, unanimously backed a motion calling for the union to work with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) to ensure the Governmen committed to the principle of equal pay for equal work and put in place a timetable for the ending of the existing two-tier system, t in the next round of pay negotiations.

Wexford delegate Mary Cullen said she qualified in 2011 and due to the lower pay rates for teachers appointed after since that time she had lost out on €30,000 in earnings over the last six years.

She said she worked side-by-side with people who had the same qualifications in the same subjects but who qualified a few months before her and were earning much more money. “It is just not fair”, she said

She said pay parity needed to be secured now and not in 2020 .

Miriam Duggan from Dublin said she older teachers did not betray their younger colleagues by accepting the introduction of lower pay rates.

“We never discussed it, we never voted for it. We would never accept it as it breached a fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work.”

She said she wanted to explode the myth that longer-serving teachers accepted the two-tier system to protect their gold -plated pensions.

Susie Hall from Dublin North East said she hoped the Government did not have a plan to wring a whole plethora of concessions in return for the restoration of equal pay. “Do not go down that route”, she said.

She said if the Government wanted to commit to the principle of equal pay it could do so today and there was no further discussion required.

Ed Byrne from Fingal in Dublin said he had been at the national public service talks in 2017 and found that the large unions in Ictu cared little for the issue of equal pay for equal work.

He said he had not heard a great deal in the interim to suggest that this position had changed.

He said the current pay agreement in the public service lasted until the start of 2021. He said an issue as fundamental as equal pay for equal work could not be put on the long finger and left until the next pay deal.

Richard Bell of Galway read a letter to the conference written by a teaching colleague who was scheduled to attend as a delegate but could not do so as she needed to earn extra money over the Easter holidays as her car insurance and rent were due in the same week next month and her salary would not cover the costs.

The teacher in the letter read to the conference said she now had the worst paid job since she was a babysitting at age 15.

The teacher said she was at the whim of management to see if she could top -up her hours by carrying out substitution work. The teacher said she sat in the staff room with colleagues , hoping that some might get ill enough to take two days off which could mean that she would secure a couple of extra hours work.