Thursday 23 November 2017

Secondary school teachers vote for industrial action and warn split pay scales are destroying their profession

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Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

SECONDARY school teachers have overwhelmingly backed a vote for industrial action as they warned split pay scales are destroying their profession.

Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI) members voted overwhelmingly to seek sanction for industrial action from September if the Department of Education does not make meaningful concessions on the controversial common basic pay scale.

The ASTI has now set an August 31 deadline for a resolution to the crisis over three different pay scales within the teaching profession.

The vote in favour of a ballot for industrial action came as ASTI members expressed outrage at the estimated €100,000 to €250,000 earnings differential between teachers on the lowest and highest pay scales over the course of a 40 year working career.

Teachers who entered the profession before 2010 now have a €9,000 pay differential over post 2011 recruits.

It is also estimated that 5,000-plus teachers have entered the profession since pay scales were split as one of the public sector pay elements of Ireland's EU/IMF bail-out package.

Motions demanding the restoration of pay scales and sanctioning a ballot on industrial action dominated the opening of the three-day ASTI annual conference in Cork.

Read more: ASTI 'willing to talk until the cows come home' ahead of planned September strike action

Four ASTI branches - Bray, Dublin South Central, Wicklow and Fingal - tabled motions demanding the restoration of the pre-2011 basic pay scale.

ASTI Bray branch Michael Browne said it was unacceptable that teachers recruited post 2012 now earn 22pc less than pre-2010 recruits.

"This is going to have far-reaching consequences for the sector. It will become increasingly difficult to attract new entrants to the teaching profession Just look at what is happening in the UK," he said.

"Teacher retention is also going to be a major problem," ASTI Dublin South Central member Sinead Corkery warned.

"Public sector pay rates now need to start reflecting what is happening in other sectors. There should be equal pay for equal work just like there was before 2011."

ASTI Wicklow branch member Declan McInerney said different pay rates now amount to "blatant discrimination."

"Different pay scales are now driving a wedge between new entrants to our profession and those employed before 2010," he said.

ASTI Tipperary delegate Siobhan Peters, who is on the post 2011 pay scales, said young teachers desperately need support.

"There is nothing more disheartening than working in a job and earning less than someone else," she said.

ASTI general secretary Kieran Christie said it represented an intolerable situation.

"There are three pay scales in some staff rooms and it is causing increasing problems across the industry," he said.

"It is causing frustration. The cuts across the industry have been savage and it is now time to invest in education and remove these legacy problems of austerity."

Read more: Young teacher's maximum mortgage allowed her to buy 'ruin in Co Leitrim'

"We are acting very responsibly because we are sending a signal to the next Minister for Education that there is a critical opportunity to avoid this industrial action," he added

"The form of action has not yet been decided but we believe there is a chance now to tackle the issue, address the problem and avoid this action."

ASTI President Maire Ni Chiarba described the treatment of young Irish teachers since 2011 as blatant exploitation.

"The message is very clear to the incoming Government - pay and conditions of new entrants will continue to be a priority issue for the ASTI," she said.

"(The) Lansdowne Road Agreement did nothing to address the totally unacceptable situation for new entrants."

"The discrimination against newly qualified teachers is so blatant that all one has to do is to consider the career earnings of a newly qualified teacher which will be significantly lower than earnings of those employed before 2011."

"What an appalling situation currently exists where teachers are working on three different pay scales," she said.

"What a disgrace. What discrimination and what inequity. Anyone who thinks that this situation will be allowed to continue is mistaken."

"The ASTI will do everything possible to right the wrong and to have this shameful situation rectified."

Incoming ASTI President Ed Byrne warned that unions had "no hand, act nor part" in the cuts foisted upon young teachers which was entirely the result of Ireland's bail-out packages.

"This is a wound that now cannot be allowed to fester," he said.

One young teacher said the differing pay scales are very unfair on new entrants.

"I am one of the lucky ones because I have a permanent job. But if I had entered the profession just two or three years earlier I would have had a better basic salary as well as several extra allowances," Hugh Coughlan said.

Hugh teaches Irish and French at North Presentation secondary school in Farranree, Cork.

"What I am most angry about is the casualisation of our profession," he said.

"You have young teachers travelling all over the country to get contracts for two or three hours work."

"The allowances are also gone so there is no longer an incentive to pursue a Masters degree," the Clonakilty native said.

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