Hundreds of second-level schools will close on Tuesday, February 4 as the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) announce a one-day strike in their ongoing campaign over pay equality.
The timing of the strike, just days before the general election, is designed to designed to exert maximum pressure for a deal to end austerity-era two-tier pay scales once and for all.
Some 260 schools in the education and training boards (ETB) sector, generally called community colleges or vocational schools, where the TUI is the sole union representing teachers, will definitely close.
The overwhelming majority of the 96 community and comprehensive schools are also likely to shut their doors to pupils.
The TUI and the Association of Secondary Teachers’ Ireland (ASTI) share representation in more than 90 of the community and comprehensive schools and without the TUI members working, schools could not function.
The TUI also has some members in the voluntary secondary sector – generally the religious run schools – and it has yet to be seen how the action will impact on those.
A spokesperson for the Joint Managerial Body (JMB), representing the voluntary secondary sector, said it would have an impact, but at this stage it was not possible to say to what extent.
The strike action will also hit colleges of further and adult education and institutes of technology, and overall 19,000 members 1,100 work places will stop work for the day.
Talks on the pay issue have been ongoing between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the teacher unions but clearly the TUI is not happy with progress.
The other two teacher unions, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and the ASTI are also involved in the pay campaign but have no immediate plans to take strike action.
And a TUI spokesperson said while its members would be taking strike action, there was “no intention to force others not to pass pickets.”
However, even if ASTI members in schools where they share representation with the TUI, decide to pass pickets, the absence of TUI members will, at the very least cause disruption, and will definitely force hundreds to close.
TUI President Seamus Lahart said they had “exhausted every avenue open to us to bring this matter to resolution and have been left with no choice but to take strike action over the ongoing scandal of pay discrimination".
The union stated that while progress had been made in the campaign, those teachers employed after January 1 2011 would still earn some €110,000 less than longer-serving colleagues over the course of a career.
Critically, they would earn over €50,000 less in the first ten years of their career when key life choices are made, the TUI added.
INTO general secretary John Boyle said their work to secure equal pay for equal work continued and they would ensure that every candidate standing for election was aware they expect the issue to be resolved in the forthcoming pay talks.
He said negotiations on a successor to the Public Service Stability Agreement were expected to begin after Easter and INTO is “determined to ensure that a solution to our outstanding pay equality issues is funded in the next public sector pay agreement.”