Teachers and gardaí demand to be included in Covid-19 bonus payments

Unions say ‘extraordinary efforts’ of teaching staff during pandemic kept schools running

Teachers’ contribution to remote teaching and keeping schools open has been of crucial importance in meeting young people’s needs, said the unions. Photograph: Getty Images

Teachers’ contribution to remote teaching and keeping schools open has been of crucial importance in meeting young people’s needs, said the unions. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Teachers should get proposed Covid-19 bonus payments for frontline workers because of their “extraordinary efforts” during the pandemic, teaching unions have declared.

The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) came together in a joint statement to demand the extra money.

While there have been no formal discussions, the three said the contribution to remote teaching and keeping schools open has been of crucial importance in meeting young people’s needs.

“We would expect to be included in any discussions around the acknowledgement of workers’ contributions during the pandemic,” they said, though no formal talks have taken place with the Government.

“Teachers’ extraordinary efforts – both face-to-face with their pupils in crowded classrooms and in the online learning space – have allowed schools to continue to prioritise teaching and learning while meeting children/young people’s needs,” they said.

Unequal

TUI general secretary Michael Gillespie suggested that one option could include “getting rid of unequal payscales”, which has seen teachers hired since 2011 earn less than older colleagues.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has warned that the bonus could cost €1 billion, while the bid by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and other health unions for 10 days’ extra leave brings “significant costs”.

Meanwhile, gardaí have equally insisted that they should receive bonus payments, partly arguing that the drop in crime that took place during the pandemic because people were not out is not a reason to leave them out.

The Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) have so far not raised the issue in talks with the Government.

Proud

However, a GRA source said gardaí should receive “no more and no less” than other State workers, adding that the fact that most forms of crime dropped significantly during the pandemic is a reason for gardaí to be proud.

Meanwhile, domestic violence increased, while gardaí had to deal with a raft of new, speedily introduced laws, the GRA source told The Irish Times, speaking anonymously.

“The fact that crime figures are down is something for gardaí to be proud of. And certainly, there have been other issues regarding the rise in domestic violence because of the pandemic,” he said.

Gardaí had to adapt to 12-hour rosters during the pandemic, which cut overtime . The roster is coming to an end shortly and gardaí are eager to get certainty on what will replace it, he added.

An Agsi source rejected any claims that gardaí had less work to do during Covid-19 due to the drop in crime, pointing to the efforts made for vulnerable people and at checkpoints “at considerable risk to themselves at times”.

Meanwhile, drugs and organised crime operations continued unabated, with unprecedented seizures. “Those people were happy to do it,” they said. “No one is looking for special treatment. Just fairness.”