Tuesday 19 September 2017

'We cannot stand for it any longer' - Young teachers claim they're being driven abroad by pay system

Joanne McAndrew
Joanne McAndrew

Rebecca Lumley

A young teacher has said that entrants into the profession are being driven abroad by a two-tier pay system, which sees some earning thousands less than their colleagues for doing the same work.

Joanne McAndrew, who protested for pay equality outside the Dáil today, said that Irish primary schools are facing a shortage of substitute teachers, many of whom are choosing to work in Middle Eastern countries where pay and conditions are significantly better. 

Primary school teachers will gather at 4:30pm today at a protest organised by the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), where they will lobby for the restoration of pay cuts.

Teachers currently operate on two distinct pay scales, separated by people who entered the profession before and after 2011, when cuts were initially implemented.

A third class teacher at Adamstown Castle Educate Together, Lucan, Ms McAndrew graduated from St Patrick’s College in 2012, just after the cuts had come into effect.

She earns €5,000 less per annum than teachers who graduated just a year before her and has lost out on a total of €30,000 in the subsequent five years. According to Ms McAndrew, this amounts to more than her first year’s wages.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms McAndrew said she hopes today’s protest “will send a clear message to our Government that it cannot exist in any new pay agreement.

“We just cannot stand for it any longer because 6 years is long enough to endure inequality.”

Originally from Mayo, Ms McAndrew was left with little choice but to live in Dublin in order to find substitute work in her first two years after graduation. While she expected a “modest salary” leaving college, she said she could not have expected to be on a completely different pay scale to people with just one year more experience than her.

She explained: “Teachers who graduated just the year before me and even people in my year are on the higher pay scale.

“If (people in my year) had done any substituting prior to the cuts they would have (technically) entered teaching before me, even though we’ve done the same exact course, and would be on the higher pay scale.”

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Ms McAndrew said the decreased pay made it difficult to afford rent in the Dublin area and will significantly impact her chance of obtaining a mortgage. Her boyfriend is also a teacher on the lower pay scale.

The two-tier system has also been accused of disincentivising people to enter the profession. Ms McAndrew said its effects were evident in the number of substitute teachers available to work.

Alison Hayes
Alison Hayes

She said: “There’s a crisis in primary schools at the moment where we can’t get any subs. All our subs are gone to Dubai or places where they’re going to be paid a decent wage. We’re not looking for the pay of Dubai but we are looking to be treated equally to our colleagues.”

Alison Hayes, a primary school teacher in Blanchardstown Village, has found herself in the same situation as Ms McAndrew.

Having graduated in 2011, she was one of the first to feel the effects of the newly introduced cuts. Ms Hayes graduated in the same class as her boyfriend, who worked a handful of days as a substitute teacher in 2010. Because he was in the system before the cuts, he earns significantly more.

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Ms Hayes said: “Unfortunately my pay is completely separate to his. We live together now and we’re saving for a mortgage and his payslip comes in, mine comes in and the difference is literally €5,000 per year, just because he started a couple of days before me.

“I may never reach the pay scale he’s on.”

Ms Hayes said it was important to note that she and other INTO members protesting were not looking for pay rises, but restorations which will level out the playing field.

She said: “I didn’t go into teaching for the pay, nobody probably does because it’s not good enough but you would expect after 6 years and a good degree, you would be paid proportionally to the qualification you have and the experience you’ve built up.

“We’ve been given a little restoration here and there but it’s still not enough. Equality is pretty black and white but we’re still not equal.”

Talks are ongoing to negotiate a new Landsdowne Road agreement and are expected to be finalised early next month. The INTO has said that the restoration of pay equality is a red-line issue and that further talks will be rejected without movement on this.

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