Monday 21 August 2017

Pay equality for teachers will have 'significant cost'

Warning: Seán Ó Foghlú
Warning: Seán Ó Foghlú

Katherine Donnelly and Eilish O'Regan

Restoring pay equality for teachers would have "significant cost implications for the education and training sector," the secretary general of the Department of Education warned at the start of the current exercise on public service pay.

The comment - a code for saying that whatever extra goes on pay, will leave less in the budget for other spending - was made in a letter from Seán Ó Foghlú to the Department of Public Expenditure last August.

Mr Ó Foghlú was offering an opinion on the role and methodology of the Public Pay Commission (PCC) after it was established. The PCC reported this week, and the letter was published on its website.

The growing population has seen a dramatic increase in enrolments in schools and third-level colleges, which has required additional teaching staff.

The secretary general advised that there had been a significant level of recruitment of new entrants to front line teaching and academic grades in recent years.

"This is in contrast to many other sectors, where recruitment was restricted under the public service recruitment moratorium", he wrote.

In addition, Mr Ó Foghlú stated "the 2011 government decision in relation to new entrant pay had a more acute effect on teachers, when compared with other public servants".

While progress has been made on restoring pay equality, teaching unions are demanding a complete closure of the gap.

In its report this week, the PCC noted that the unions "very strongly" made the point on the issue of pay for new entrants, and, specifically, the need to restore the common basic scale for teachers. The absence of restoration of pay equality in the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) was a key factor in the rejection by the Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) of that deal. It has led to a dispute, that has caused considerable disruption to school life this year.

Now that the PCC has reported, talks on a follow-on to the LRA are expected to get under way soon.

Meanwhile, Ireland is facing a potential shortage of up to 1,380 GPs in less than a decade, according to the HSE's submission to the PCC.

The extent of the shortage will depend on how far free GP care for various groups of the population has extended by 2025.

It warned that if the shortfall is to be addressed by training more doctors, as opposed to recruiting from abroad, there will be a need to significantly increase the annual intake of GPs into specialist schemes.

The growing number of women in the profession means more GPs are working part-time, it said.

In a separate submission, the Brothers of Charity group, which is the largest body providing services to people with an intellectual disability, said it is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit suitable executives because of capped salary levels.

The HSE has capped the salary of a national chief executive of the organisation at €110,000. The charity's board had set the salary of €125,000.

The lower salary led to one suitable candidate for the post changing their mind about accepting the job.

The organisation receives €156m in public funding and has 2,783 staff so the salary of the chief executive should reflect this level of responsibility.

Irish Independent

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