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Tuesday 28 January 2020

Government reiterates threat to slash teachers’ pay

Ruairi Quinn
Ruairi Quinn

Lyndsey Telford and Ed Carty

THE Government has reiterated its threat to slash teachers' wages after the leaders of two unions refused to support the new public sector pay deal.

While ministers suggested they were confident of ultimately getting the necessary backing for the Haddington Road Agreement, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said opponents of the deal had to be respected.

"We would prefer to have negotiations and reach agreement but in an open society that's not always possible," he said.

"Individual organisations and individual citizens have the right to make their own decisions and we will respect that but we have to regain our economic sovereignty and this decision, painful for everybody as it is, is part and parcel of that."

The Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (Asti) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) have refused to give their support to the revised payroll plan.

They say it does not go far enough from initial proposals following negotiations on a successor to the Croke Park deal.

They have threatened industrial action. It is unlikely to kick in until the new school year in September and union leaders have suggested it will be progressive but measured.

Siptu executives are in favour of the Haddington deal, brokered with individual unions following weeks of talks at the Labour Relations Commission.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he was hopeful all unions which traditionally supported social partnership would back the agreement.

"I was talking to Minister Brendan Howlin yesterday evening and he was quite confident and I think he has done a great job," Mr Noonan said.

"It's like on the previous agreement when it didn't go through; everyone needs a bit of space now to consider their position so we don't want to highlight anything too much. Unions will talk to their members and we will see but it is looking good."

The Government will next week introduce new legislation to unilaterally cut public sector pay without consulting workers.

The legislation will coincide with unions seeking acceptance of a 300 million euro payroll savings plan from workers.

The Government hopes full agreement with all the unions can be reached over the proposals, which include pay cuts of up to 10% for public servants earning more than 65,000 euro and cuts to pensions.

Some of the other measures in the revised package include nurses working longer hours, teachers losing supervision and substitution payments and a series of increment freezes.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013 will be debated in the Dail next week before it gets passed.

The Bill says: "A new section 2B is inserted into the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No 2) Act 2009.

"This provides that an existing power to fix terms and conditions may be exercised by the relevant employer or minister of the Government so as to result in less favourable remuneration, other than core salary, or increased hours for the public servants concerned, notwithstanding any of the terms of any enactment, contract or otherwise provided for."

It allows the Government to directly set terms and conditions of public servants to reduce remuneration and increase working time.

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