'I would be €30,000 better off if I'd qualified a year earlier... it's a bitter pill to swallow'
Secondary school teacher Mary Cullen (31) reckons she lost €30,000 in the first six years of her career compared with someone who qualified a year before her.
The St Peter's College teacher, from Ballycanew in Gorey, Co Wexford, graduated in 2012 just after new recruits' wages were cut by 10pc.
This was followed not long afterwards by the axing of their allowances.
But she would have avoided the cuts if she hadn't decided to do a Masters in sport and exercise management. This meant she qualified as a teacher after new entrants' salaries were slashed.
Her starting pay was around €27,000 a year but she only got a percentage because she had just eight hours' work a week.
"The pay cut was huge initially," said the now full-time teacher. "We started on point one of the incremental pay scale, but the previous year started at year three.
"I was working at the weekend in a clothes shop for kids in Gorey, because the classes stop you being able to earn more during the week somewhere else. I would have been better off full time in the clothes shop from a financial perspective."
She added: "I've lost €30,000 in my first six years as a teacher compared with a person who qualified the year before me. That's the cost of a wedding or a mortgage deposit. Thankfully, we've two incomes in our house.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow. If I had not done the Masters and pushed myself further I would be in a better position. It has actually been detrimental to have done something that I thought would have benefited myself and my students."
She also described the Government's decision to impose sanctions on ASTI members after they took industrial action - but not on nurses who went on strike - as unfair.
"I fully support the nurses," she said. "I don't agree with an increment freeze for anyone standing up for their rights."