Tuesday 28 February 2017

Teachers to renew pay hike demand

Fresh strike action threat

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

TUI president Gerry Quinn
TUI president Gerry Quinn

A month after the General Election and with no end in sight in the battle to form the next government, the country is facing industrial relations action by thousands of State and semi-state workers.

The threat of widespread industrial action by teachers could bring chaos for parents and students in the months before the Leaving Certificate examinations.

Early rumblings of that unrest will be heard this week with calls for wage recovery set to dominate the agenda of the country's three teaching unions at their annual conferences.

Members of the INTO, TUI and ASTI will all debate the removal of separate salary scales introduced during the recession which sees new teachers paid less than more experienced colleagues for doing the same work.

The secondary school teachers' representative union, the ASTI, are also likely to demand the removal of the public service pensions levy.

The likely escalation of teachers' pay demands comes just days after it emerged that three newly qualified gardai have resigned from the force over their low entry-level pay grade of about €23,000 and this weekend members of the public looking to attend the Easter Rising commemorations have been seriously inconvenienced by the strike by Luas workers.

Bus and rail workers have also put in claims for substantial pay increases.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said separate salary scales for teachers could not be defended by the Government.

"Successive governments decided to introduce discriminatory and inequitable pay scales for new teachers," she said. "The teacher unions opposed this and are determined to overturn it."

Ms Nunan described the pay cuts for new teachers as an affront to the core trade union principle of equal pay for equal work and said it would be the cause that would rally the active participation in the union by new members.

Currently, new entrant teachers start on a salary of €30,702. While this will increase by €796 to €31,498 this September and by a further €796 to €32,294 in September 2017, all three figures are substantially lower than the €40,730 salary typically earned by a teacher entering the profession in September 2009.

TUI president Gerry Quinn said it was a "certainty" there would be "industrial relations trouble" if the issue of differential pay scales was not dealt with by the incoming government.

He said: "This is a major issue. There's no two ways about it. We're determined to get this dealt with. This is intolerable. I make no apologies for saying this is exploitation of teachers. It's wrong. And it's unfair. One thing is for sure about this, there's an absolute determination in the TUI. We're going to be like the proverbial dog with the bone. We're not going to let go of this. Whatever government comes into being is going to have to address this and if they don't, there's going to be industrial relations trouble. That's a certainty."

Mr Quinn said he had been contacted by many young teachers who had given up on the teaching profession and returned home to live with their parents as they had been unable to make ends meet on the salaries being paid to them.

The TUI president said these teachers had spent significant sums of money with their parents investing in their third-level education and had their hearts set on teaching but couldn't find jobs which paid them enough to live on.

Members of the ASTI meanwhile, are set to debate three pay-related motions in the course their annual convention, which gets underway in Cork on Tuesday.

Sunday Independent

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