Sunday 22 October 2017

Teachers' union will ballot for strike action if pay for newer teachers is not addressed

Pay inequality: TUI president Joanne Irwin Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Pay inequality: TUI president Joanne Irwin Picture: Daragh McSweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel and Katherine Donnelly

The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) will ballot for industrial action next October if the Government does not fully tackle pay inequality for teachers.

A motion was overwhelmingly passed at the TUI's 50th annual conference in Cork which set a September deadline for the Government to signal the end of pay inequality within the profession.

An amendment from the TUI executive, which sought to remove the ballot stipulation and deadline, was defeated by 192 votes to 177.

TUI delegates overwhelmingly passed the motion which warned that: "Congress condemns this continuing unfairness of lower pay, allowances and pension entitlements for newer entrants."

"Congress instructs the executive to ballot for industrial action in October 2017 if these discriminatory rates are still in place in September 2017."

TUI President Joanne Irwin had spoke in favour of the executive amendment arguing that the union already had a ballot in favour of industrial action in place.

Ms Irwin insisted to congress that she has "fire in the belly" for the pay equality battle and said she would be putting that very issue to the minister today.

However, Eddie Conlon of TUI Dublin Colleges, speaking in favour of the motion, said it was vital that the union show the Government they were "very serious" about ending pay inequality.

Different pay and grading scales apply to teachers who entered the profession before and after 2011/2012.

One speaker warned that, by the age of 50, a new entrant will have lost out on €243,000 in earnings compared to a colleague who entered the profession just a few years earlier.

Union members warned that they wanted Education Minister Richard Bruton to know the TUI would no longer tolerate pay inequality and were willing to take determined action.

TUI members acknowledged that progress had been achieved but warned that much more needed to be done.

"The message needs to go out that we are now deadly serious about doing something about this," Mr Conlon said.

Joseph Farrelly from Louth, who became a teacher post 2011, said that after working for five years he had still not reached the pay scale he would have started on had he started a few years earlier.

"I am expected to teach (students) about equality when I don't have it myself," he said.

"Justice delayed in justice denied."

Other speakers said it was outrageous for teachers doing the same job to be paid differently.

ASTI has suspended the normal  business of its conference this afternoon to allow for a private debate on strategy in their dispute over pay and junior cycle.

The move was backed by an overwhelming majority after a number of delegates expressed concern about a lack of clarity in staff rooms over the direction being pursued by the union.

Several delegates spoke of how ASTI members in their schools were leaving the union and there warnings that more could go.

The ASTI is alone in having rejected the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) on post-austerity pay restoration and is also refusing to co-operate with junior cycle reforms.

As a result, ASTI members are losing out on improved pay and conditions. Young teachers are worst - currently up to €220 a month behind their counterparts in other teacher  unions, and they also have to wait four years for a permanent contract,  rather than  two years  agreed under LRA.

In another big loss, about two in three ASTI members have forfeited an increment, worth  an average €1,200, this year because of the dispute.

In another consequence of the pay dispute, ASTI members are currently performing supervision and substitution duties without pay.

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