Ross shuts down FG minister in teacher pay controversy
Independent Alliance Minister Shane Ross has moved to shut down a Government controversy over teachers' pay.
The Transport Minbster says the State cannot afford to introduce a system of equal pay for teachers. But Mr Ross told the Irish Independent that the Government must make efforts to bridge the pay gap in the teaching profession through a series of phased payments.
The controversy surrounding the pay gap between teachers was reignited last week by Super Junior Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, who said there should be equal pay for equal work.
"Everyone that does the same job deserves the same pay," the Fine Gael minister said.
Sources close to the minister insisted that she was standing by the remarks - despite the headache it had created for the Government.
However, Mr Ross fuelled the controversy further last night by warning that any moves towards bridging the pay gap can only happen over a phased basis.
"The contribution made by teachers, junior or senior, should be fully recognised by the State," Mr Ross told the Irish Independent. "Sadly we do not yet have sufficient resources.
"We should aim to progress a solution by phasing in further payments in future agreements."
The comments by ministers about pay have been seized upon by teachers' unions as the Dáil prepares to return following the summer recess next month.
Unions said there was a "deep sense of injustice" about changes made to the pay structure for new entrants to the profession at the height of the recession. But Government figures fear a "domino effect" involving other groups if teachers were prioritised.
Teachers starting work this September will earn €32,294, down from the €40,730 that was paid to a typical new entrant before 2011. Young teachers are on a lower salary scale, which means a loss of €100,000 over the course of a career when compared with senior colleagues.
The Government is now under growing pressure to do a deal with teachers' unions to reverse the cuts as it already faces the threat of industrial action amid claims that there's a 'yellow pack' system. This would cost in the region of €70m for teachers and €209m a year for the entire public service.
The INTO has seen members already reject a draft deal to extend the Lansdowne Road Agreement until 2020 in protest at its failure to address the "discriminatory" pay rates, and the ASTI and TUI are expected to follow suit.
The TUI is set to ballot for industrial action.