Saturday 17 November 2018

Primary schools may face strike action after union rejects pay deal

Stock photo: Getty
Stock photo: Getty

Anne-Marie Walsh

PRIMARY school students may face strikes after teachers rejected a Government proposal to end two-tier pay in the public service.

Members of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) have voted by a narrow majority of 53pc against a package that meant recent recruits would get pay hikes worth €3,300 each.

There was a 55pc turnout.

In a statement, the union said the vote demonstrates the commitment of its members to secure pay equality.

It said the proposed agreement still left several new entrants from 2011 onwards paid less than their colleagues.

The union's Central Executive Committee will meet next week to consider the result and a ballot on industrial action.

But the teachers will face severe sanctions in the shape of a nine month delay in pay rises and an increment freeze if they take industrial action.

The INTO passed a motion at its annual conference earlier this year that meant it is obliged to pursue industrial action if an agreement is not reached on equal pay.

"In the event of failure to resolve the issues in the engagement, a campaign of industrial action, up to and including strike action, as mandated by members, will be pursued, where possible in conjunction with the other teacher unions," it said.

A ballot for industrial action is now set to take place.

“Notwithstanding progress to date on pay equality, the proposed agreement by Government failed to signal an end to pay inequality for all new entrants," said INTO General Secretary Sheila Nunan.

"Acting in solidarity with their colleagues who are paid less for doing the same job, our membership has signalled that they will not stand for any agreement which leaves them in a similar position."

Many teachers may have voted no as they want compensation for what they lost in the form of back pay.

An INTO spokesperson said a teacher hired shortly after the cuts were imposed will still be down €19,000 under the new measures, after suffering €30,000 losses to date.

Some unions warned that the proposal does not go far enough and other cuts that leave them worse off should be reversed.

Outstanding issues for secondary teachers relate to a qualification allowance, generally known as the HDip allowance, worth €1,236 a year, which was axed and the fact that teachers no longer start at the third point of their payscale.

Public servants who joined after 2011 have been on lower pay rates due to cuts imposed during the austerity era.

The government slashed pay rates by 10pc across the board at first. But the situation for recruits improved when deals were later struck that mean they remained on the lower rates for the first year or two before merging with existing pay scales.

The Government’s new €190m new entrants' package has not settled all grievances for teachers. And consultant and nurses’ representatives are also unhappy with aspects of the deal.

Last week, the TUI was the first of the teacher unions to deliver a verdict on the government proposal when it voted to accept it.

The ASTI is due to give its verdict on the government package next month.

All three teacher unions put the proposals to ballot without a recommendation.

If accepted, over 60,000 public sector workers would benefit from the Government offer to restore their pay.

The deal means those who have been on lower pay rates since 2011 would gradually catch up with their longer-serving colleagues - although it will take up to 2026 for some.

They will do this by leap-frogging up two or three increments on their pay scales.

The Irish Medical Organisation has warned it is consulting members on the potential for industrial action if the Government does not hold talks on the issue.

It said recruits since 2012 will still be on pay that lags 30pc behind longer-serving staff. This is because consultants, unlike any other public servants, suffered a 30pc cut on top of the 10pc cut for new entrants.

It said pay rates for new entrants would be up to €50,000 a year lower for colleagues doing the same job.

However, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has insisted he will not open the purse strings any further.

The 60,000 new entrant recruits to the public service since January 2011 includes over 16,000 teachers, nearly 5,000 special needs assistants and almost 10,000 nurses.

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