Teachers protest over two-tier pay system in schools

Department estimates it would cost €200m to end two-tier pay structure that affects 60,000

A file image showing teachers from the INTO, ASTI and TUI protesting before a Government report on pay equalisation. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

A file image showing teachers from the INTO, ASTI and TUI protesting before a Government report on pay equalisation. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) staged lunchtime protests on Thursday to highlight the “continuing injustice of pay discrimination” involving staff hired since 2011.

Services for students were not affected by the protests, which took place outside schools, colleges and Institutes of Technology in which TUI members work.

The TUI, along other teachers’ unions including the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI), have warned of potential strike action if engagement between unions and the Government does not resolve the issue of pay discrimination.

Talks have been ongoing since last month. On Thursday, the Government said it is planning to meet again with trade unions on the new entrant pay issue in early June.

The Government has estimated that the cost of ending the two-tier pay system across the public sector would be about €200 million.

A recent report drawn up by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform found that about 60,000 staff across the public service -not just in education - recruited since 2011 were receiving less than longer-serving counterparts.

In a debate on the two-tier pay system in the public service on Thursday, Minister of State at the Department of Finance Michael D’Arcy told the Dáil that, while momentum in the economy remained strong, there were several clouds on the horizon including Brexit.

“As the Department responsible for reconciling the various demands made on the Exchequer, it is at a minimum necessary, to quantify, evaluate and consider whether within the resources available to us as a nation, that any level of spending increases being advocated is sustainable and affordable and can be prioritised among the many pressing social and other needs of Irish society,” he said.

“That is not to say that all requests for additional expenditure are without merit, this Government appreciates that extra funding is necessary and must be committed in certain areas – for example to increase capital spending by €1.5 billion to provide the homes, hospitals and other infrastructure investments that our society needs.

“What is important however is that additional spending proposals are carefully thought through by the Oireachtas and evaluated in advance so that the consequences and trade-offs are known before any budgetary decisions are taken.”

October Budget

Fianna Fáil spokesman on public expenditure Barry Cowen indicated his party wanted to see movement by the Government on the newer entrant pay issue in the Budget in October .

TUI president Joanne Irwin said on the issue of lower pay posed a very real threat to the high quality of the Irish education system.

She said a survey of new entrant members conducted last March indicated that almost half of members did not believe they will still be in the profession in ten year’s time.

“It is a complete injustice that one teacher is on a lesser pay rate than another for carrying out the same work,” she said.

“This system of pay discrimination has completely undermined the profession and has had a devastating impact on morale in staffrooms.”

All three teachers’ unions have warned of potential strike action if a pathway to end the two-tier pay gap is not agreed soon.

The ASTI is planning a ballot in the autumn, while the INTO has no immediate ballots for ballot for industrial action.

The TUI already has a ballot mandate for industrial action on the pay equality issue.