Friday 23 February 2018

Teachers warned of wage freeze if they shut schools

Minister lists rules of engagement as majority of unions back pay pact

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tom Burke
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tom Burke

Anne-Marie Walsh and Katherine Donnelly

Public servants face having their pay increments frozen and will not get wage hikes worth more than 7pc if they take industrial action after rejecting a new Government deal.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe issued the warning as teacher unions - who are out in the cold on the deal - consider industrial action.

Sources revealed that officials have privately warned Garda representatives, whose members have not finished balloting, that their increments will not be paid from January 1 if they fail to accept the deal.

Mr Donohoe set out his ground rules for engagement with unions just hours after the majority backed the 'stability' agreement yesterday. The pact extends the Lansdowne Road Agreement up to 2020.

Under the deal, 73pc of the country's 300,000-plus State workers will get a pay boost of 7pc or more between next year and 2020, at a cost of €1.1bn.

However, many will make a higher contribution towards their pensions as a levy imposed during the financial crisis will be kept fully in place for some, and partly for others.

Increments

In relation to the status of increments, Mr Donohoe said that "the benefits in this agreement will be made available to those who are inside the agreement".

"I and the Government have upheld that principle in relation to the Lansdowne Road Agreement, and we will continue to uphold it in relation to this new agreement," he said.

"So matters such as increments and any other matters will be dealt with in the context of that spirit."

He said he will recommend how this is done to his Government colleagues when all unions have finished balloting.

It is understood that the pay threat applies to those who take industrial action - which is seen as 'repudiating' the deal - rather than those who simply 'reject' it but do not walk off the job.

Unite, for example, has consistently rejected Government deals but accepted the majority union decision, which means its members still get the wage hikes.

However, there remains dissent among the three teacher unions, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) and the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI). The agreement's failure to end two-tier pay rates is at the root of this dispute.

Staff recruited in the last six years get lower pay for the first few years than their colleagues who joined prior to 2011. The first point on their pay scale is more than €33,000.

The TUI, which rejected the deal, has warned it will not be bound by the collective decision and has a mandate for industrial action.

But yesterday it softened its position by calling for talks on pay equality.

The INTO, whose members rejected the deal, said its executive will meet later this week to consider the collective union verdict. General secretary Sheila Nunan also called for immediate talks.

The ASTI will ballot its members next month.

Irish Independent

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