Teachers threaten escalation of strike action if next govt fails to address 'pay discrimination'

Teachers threaten escalation of strike action if next govt fails to address 'pay discrimination'
Members of the TUI at Coláiste Treasa, Kanturk, during today's strike. Pic: Denis Minihane.

Many of the teachers and lecturers who took part in strikes today are not directly affected by what they deem "pay discrimination" but see the impact it is having on colleagues, and on the education sector.

That was the view of those on the picket lines at Education and Training Board, community, comprehensive and voluntary schools, institutes of technology and colleges of further education as 19,000 members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI) took industrial action.

TUI members say their campaign, decided last autumn following an overwhelming vote, will continue until they see an end to the two-tier pay system.

“If addressing pay discrimination is not on the agenda of the next government, you can be sure to see additional action and an escalation," said Mike Lyons, a member of the TUI national executive and the Cork union rep.

Teachers who qualify after 2011 earn 10% less than their colleagues over the first ten years of their career, he added. "That's more than €50,000, which is more than a deposit for a house."

“Copious talks haven’t delivered the full and final restoration of pay. Some progress has been made but it didn’t go far enough.”

Gillian Quinlan of the Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) TUI branch said: “Anyone who has been employed in an institute of technology after that date has been on a dramatically lower annual salary than someone who had been employed a month or two beforehand.

“I know of several circumstances where there are two people sharing an office and one is earning substantially less money than the person beside them, just because of their start date.

“How can somebody over the last 10 years have earned thousands of euro less than the person working beside them, doing the exact same work?

If it's not resolved, we will be out here again and again because we will not stand for discrimination.

The current pay scales make teaching seem like an unattractive career option compared to the private sector, according Paula O'Connell, who teaches at the Cork College of Commerce.

Paula, who qualified in 2014, commutes roughly 15 hours each week to the college's campus in West Cork to teach for the whole time equivalent of 22 hours a week.

Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, on strike today. Pic: Don Moloney
Members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, on strike today. Pic: Don Moloney

“It's unfair to ask newer entrants to do the same work as their colleagues and to be paid less for it, with no chance of it improving.

"Even as the years go by, they are never going to be paid at the same level as their colleagues.

There is a hidden workload there that people don’t see. People in the private sector don’t realise that, and I’ve worked for both sides.

Tim Murphy of the Cork city schools branch of the TUI said: "It is really unfortunate when you see young teachers and how difficult it is for them starting out, and for their whole career if nothing changes.

"It is a real injustice, so it is more about solidarity and understanding for our colleagues. They are on a different pay scale for doing the same work. It doesn't make any sense."

Meanwhile, hundreds of creches across the country are to remain closed today as childcare workers stage a national protest in Dublin to highlight what they describe as a sector in crisis.

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