Teachers who are members of TUI to stage one-day strike in February

Stoppage marks major escalation of campaign over two-tier pay system

Teachers are to stage a one-day strike in February in a significant escalation of the long-running campaign to end the two-tier pay system in schools.

The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said its executive had decided to hold the stoppage as its efforts to bring the issue of pay discrimination to a conclusion had been “frustrated by Government inaction”.

Another organisation representing teachers, the ASTI, said on Monday that if a review of the current public service agreement, which trade unions were seeking, did not happen or did not address outstanding issues to do with new entrant pay, it would take whatever action was necessary, including balloting members on industrial action.

The ASTI is not, at present, involved in the planned strike.

The Government is already facing separate potential industrial action by doctors in hospitals in the New Year over lower pay for those appointed since 2012. The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said a fortnight ago that it would ballot its members for strike action.

TUI members last month voted by a margin of 92 per cent to 8 per cent to engage in a campaign of industrial action, up to and including strike action, on the pay issue.

The union represents about 19,000 members in second level schools, colleges of further and adult education and Institutes of Technology/Technological Universities.

The TUI said it remained open to meaningful engagement with the Government with a view to resolving the issue fully.

‘Unacceptable silence’

It said its campaign had resulted in progress on the pay equality issue but that teachers employed after January 1st 2011 “will still earn some €110,000 less than longer-serving colleagues over the course of a career”.

TUI President Seamus Lahart said: "At the teacher conferences last April, Minister for Education Joe McHugh indicated clearly that the issue of pay inequality in the education sector would finally be addressed by Government. Several months on, the silence of Government on this unacceptable injustice remains deafening.

“Pay discrimination has severely damaged the profession, ripping the morale of staff to shreds and making teaching less attractive to the best graduates.

“It has also greatly contributed to the deepening crisis of recruitment and retention of teachers in our schools. A survey of principals carried out by TUI this year found that over the previous six months, 94per cent of schools experienced teacher recruitment difficulties, 68 per cent of schools advertised positions to which no teacher applied, while 47per cent of schools had unfilled teaching vacancies.

"In practical terms, this means that many schools are not in a position to offer the full range of subjects and levels. For example, it was reported last week that the Department of Education and Skills has evidence that many schools will be forced to reduce access to modern languages due to difficulties recruiting qualified teachers."

Pay discrimination

Mr Lahart said that “ pay discrimination against new and recent entrants has a significant, detrimental effect on the service provided and options available to students”.

He said the largest discrimination took place in the early years of employment, with new entrants to second level teaching earning 14 per cent less on initial appointment and 10 per cent less in the first 10 years than they would have before the imposition of a two-tier pay system.

“To make matters worse, many new entrants to teaching do not secure a contract of full hours upon initial appointment, earning just a fraction of the whole-time salary.”

The TUI said to deal with the pay inequality issue in full a number of issues still remained to be achieved. These included:

- Elimination of the remaining differences in the early points of scale for “new entrant” grades (Teacher, Assistant Lecturer etc).

- Payment of the HDip/PME allowance to those who started teaching since 2012.

- Commencement on point 3 of scale in recognition of the six-year (primary degree and PME) unpaid training period.