Pay equality fight now with European Court of Justice
Bruton: there's no money to eliminate two-tier salaries
The row over two-tier pay rates for Irish teachers has made its way to the European Court of Justice.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) believes that the lower salary scales are not only unfair, but unlawful on age discrimination grounds.
In a previously unreported case, the primary teachers' union brought a claim on behalf of two members to the Labour Court.
In March, the Labour Court referred key questions from that case to the European Court of Justice. It is not known when a finding may be expected.
The case is being taken by two INTO members Claire Keegan and Thomas Horgan with the support of the union.
Both primary teachers qualified in 2011 and face career-long earnings losses of €100,000, compared with pre-2011 entrants. INTO deputy general secretary Noel Ward said the union rejected pay inequality for new entrants, "not just because it is unfair and divisive but because we believe it is unlawful".
He said what distinguished teachers on lower pay scales was their age.
Mr Ward said that 75pc of new entrant teachers in 2011 - the year lower pay scales were introduced - were 25 or younger, and the public servants most disadvantaged were young teachers.
"Less pay for new entrants means less pay for younger teachers.
"The EU and Ireland have a law to tackle that kind of unfairness, called age discrimination," he told the INTO annual conference.
He noted decisions in a recent age discrimination case, such as journalist Valerie Cox against RTÉ, and said the INTO would maintain its legal challenge to its conclusion.
News of the development came as Education Minister Richard Bruton finished his round of teacher conferences advising that there was no money in the pay budget up to the end of 2020 to eliminate two-tier salary scales.
Mr Bruton faced another protest from delegates at the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), with shouts of "equal pay now" from the back of the hall after the speeches.
TUI president Joanne Irwin read out a list of names of union members on lowers scales, who stood up to identify themselves.
She said teachers were resolute on achieving equal pay
The minister, who is facing the prospect of teacher strikes in the autumn if equal pay is not conceded, did not go beyond what he told other conferences - that teachers had a "justifiable demand".
He said there was a "clear commitment in Government to make progress and hoped discussions starting at the end of April will be fruitful".
But he pointed out that 270 public service grades were affected by lower entrant pay rates, and it would cost a total of €200m a year to implement pay equalisation.
He said the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) "made provision for €870m up to 2020, which did not include the issue of new entrant pay. "Provision has not been made at this point in budgets for that".
Under the terms of the PSSA, unions face penalties, including a pay freeze, if they take strike action.
The minister said he hoped they would be fully involved in the collective agreement, "but if unions decide to step outside the agreement, it creates a different situation. I am not going to speculate on what that might involve. We are entering into negotiations in good faith and our intention is to reach an agreement".