Any cut to teacher allowances would be a breach of the Croke Park agreement and would result in the end of reforms under the deal, a union has warned.
The Department of Education suspended payment of allowances to new teachers and others taking up additional posts from Feb 1. Similar moves are in effect across the public sector pending a review, due at the end of the month, of all allowances and premiums by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
It aims to find savings of €75m this year from the annual €2bn cost of allowances and overtime.
The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) says any cut in allowances would be a cut in pay and would involve a breach of the Croke Park agreement, under which public service pay is protected from further cuts in return for reforms and increased productivity.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said last night that the focus of the review is on new entrants to the public service and workers not currently receiving particular allowances.
But the relatively low number of people being recruited into the public service means the savings needed will be hard to find without cutting existing allowance payments.
Figures published by the Irish Examiner in 2009 showed that over €500m of that year’s €3.8bn pay bill for 60,000 primary and second level teachers was paid in allowances.
“Should the Government decide to cut teachers’ pay it would, in effect, amount to industrial action by the Government,” said TUI general secretary John MacGabhann.
The union executive decided on Friday that it will ballot members for power to instruct them to withdraw from commitments given under Croke Park if there is any further erosion of pay, following what Mr MacGabhann said were the “provocative actions” of the Government in freezing allowances.
The proposed ballot would also mandate action up to strike level if the Government “retaliates” against any withdrawal from Croke Park reforms.
Mr MacGabhann said they have fully complied, in good faith, with the terms of the agreement and implemented changes such as additional hours in schools and colleges.
“The union now requires the Government also to act in good faith and honour its side of the agreement,” he said.
Teachers’ pay generally includes allowances of up to €6,000 in recognition of qualifications, but rates were cut for those appointed since Jan 2011. The qualifications allowances cost over €250m in 2009, with over €60m in allowances to principals.
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