TEACHERS are to receive pay increases of almost €22m next year, while other parts of the education budget will be slashed, it has emerged.
More than 30,000 teachers will get the increments as part of measures agreed by the last Government under the Croke Park deal.
It comes at a time when public sector wages are already running at a third more than salaries in private companies.
A total of €250m will be added to the public pay bill next year as a result of increases applied under Croke Park. In all, State workers have received more than €1.2bn in pay rises since the recession began in 2007.
New Central Statistics Office data shows weekly earnings in the public sector rose from €882 a week in the first quarter of 2010 to €913 in the final quarter.
In contrast, weekly earnings in the private sector were almost a third lower at €625 in the final quarter of 2010.
The Department of Finance has argued that suspending increments would have an "uneven impact and would disproportionately affect lower-paid staff".
It said higher-paid public service grades have, in general, significantly shorter incremental scales than lower-paid staff.
Consequently, more of the better paid employees are at the maximum of scales.
In respect of teachers, pay increases of up to €301 extra a month, or €3,615 a year, are being granted from September next year. Some €13.8m will be spent on the rises for more than 19,000 primary school teachers, with a further €6.4m going to about 11,000 secondary level teachers, it was revealed today.
Teachers' salaries account for 45pc of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's €8.4bn non-capital budget this year. However, in order for the increments to be granted, massive cuts will have to be found elsewhere, with student grants, funding for schools and the number of support teachers all being reduced.
A number of Government TDs have already voiced concern about the Croke Park deal, which was signed by Brian Cowen's Government in April 2010. It guarantees public-sector pay will not be cut until 2014 and there will be no compulsory redundancies.
Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy said the agreement should be torn up in the best interests of the economy.
He pointed out the Government was elected to make decisions on what is necessary to improve the economy.
"The mandate for this Government was to make hard decisions, quickly. We are running out of time," he said over the weekend. His party colleague Jerry Buttimer added his voice, saying the long-term viability of controversial deal was now in question.