Friday 6 December 2019

Teachers' union threatens one-day strike if no breakthrough is found in pay equality dispute

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Stock photo
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A teachers'' union is ramping up pressure for an end to two-tier pay scales with the threat of a one-day strike in February.

The Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) announced the proposed stoppage, the date for which has not been given, as discussions on the issue continue between the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of Trades Unions and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deper).

It follows a ballot last month, when TUI members voted 92pc in favour of a campaign of industrial action, up to and including strike action, on the issue.

The strike warning is aimed at focusing minds and bringing the PSC-Deper talks to a speedy resolution. If that doesn't happen, the stoppage will give a taste of the disruption teacher unions may cause in the run-up to next year's general election,

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Last April, Education Minister Joe McHugh promised that outstanding pay inequality in the education sector would be addressed, and the PSC-Deper talks were set up to find a pathway to resolution.

But TUI president Seamus Lahart said "several months on, the silence of Government on this unacceptable injustice remains deafening".

The three teacher unions are committed to working together to end pay inequality. The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) has held off balloting on industrial action and will review the matter at its December executive meeting. The Association of Secondary Teachers' Ireland (ASTI) has said it will ballot in parallel with the INTO, if the INTO conducts a ballot. The TUI has 19,000 members in second-level schools, colleges of further and adult education and institutes of technology/technological universities, all of which would be affected if the strike goes ahead.

Salary cuts were imposed after the financial crash and, while much progress has been made in closing the pay gap between teachers employed before and after January 2011, a divide remains. The biggest losses are in the early years of employment, and it is compounded for second-level teachers, many of whom do not secure a contract of full hours initially and receive a fraction of whole-time salary.

Mr Lahart said teachers employed after January 1, 2011, stood to earn some €110,000 less than longer-serving colleagues over the course of a career.

He said pay discrimination had "severely damaged the profession, ripping the morale of staff to shreds and making teaching less attractive to the best graduates". It also "greatly contributed to the deepening crisis of recruitment and retention of teachers in our schools", he said.

Irish Independent

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