Saturday 25 May 2019

Pay equality for teachers in sight following 'breakthrough' deal

Stock photo
Stock photo
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

TEACHER leaders claim an end is in sight to their long-running battle over pay inequality after a breakthrough deal with the Government.

The Government was under growing pressure in the wake of concessions made to nurses following three days of strike action earlier this year.

A process has been agreed in intensive negotiations, which continued until today, between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPER) and the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

As the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) annual conference got underway in Galway today, the union released the text of a wording agreed with Government.

It states: “On the issue of new entrant salary scales, certain unions have indicated that they have outstanding issues of concern following the agreement brokered in September 2018.

“The management side understands that these outstanding matters will be given full consideration either by any pay review mechanism agreed by the parties or in the context of the next round of pay talks.

“It is recognised that the positions of each of the parties concerned on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution.”

Even if a mechanism is agreed to review the current public service pay deal, the PSSA, there is no expectation of any further concessions before it expires in December 2020.

The INTO set this week’s  annual conferences as the deadline for a firm commitment on ending two-tier pay scales.

While Education Minister Joe McHugh has repeatedly described the outstanding pay inequality issues as “unfinished business”, an INTO source said last week for the first time, DEPER officials also acknowledged that.

Minister McHugh will address the conference tomorrow.

Incoming INTO general secretary John Boyle said they were now “confident” that they have a pathway towards pay equality for teachers recruited between 2011-2014 who still lag behind.

While the PSSA signed last year came close to restoring pay equality after cuts imposed on new entrants in 2011, it did not close the gap fully.

Teachers recruited between 2011 and 2014 face ongoing career earnings losses of up to €19,000 if the outstanding issues are not resolved.

While the immediate focus is on the teachers whose unions kept up a relentless campaign on pay inequality, other public service unions will ensure they keep step with any concessions made to other groups.

Soon after the INTO conference opened, the union’s outgoing general secretary Sheila Nunan, who is also vice chair of the ICTU Public Services Committee, briefed delegates on developments.

She said that a process has been agreed with the Government, “finally setting a pathway towards ending pay inequality.”

Mr Boyle said the process, taking the form of a statement of intent by the Government, acknowledges the need to find a resolution on pay equality and other outstanding pay issues by way of a pay review process or in the context of the next public sector pay talks.

“INTO is confident that today’s announcement provides a pathway to pay equality which will deliver for our 2011 to 2014 cohorts.

“Earlier today, the central executive committee considered the new development and has decided that INTO members will utilise this new process which has now been agreed with the Government.”

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