Minister warns of penalties if teachers strike

The education minister has warned teachers they could face consequences if they engage in strike action after secondary school teachers backed a motion in favour of a ballot for industrial action if the issue of equal pay is not addressed by May.

Richard Bruton said there was a provision in the public service pay agreement that could lead to penalties if teachers breached the terms. He said this could mean financial penalties.

He was at the annual convention of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) in Cork yesterday where he received a somewhat hostile reception. Placards demanding equal pay for equal work heralded his arrival and were carried into the convention centre and held aloft. Mr Bruton was heckled throughout his speech as delegates made clear they wanted an end to a two-tier pay system that sees teachers who entered the profession since 2011 paid less than their colleagues.

ASTI president Ger Curtain told delegates the issue of equal pay had “dogged their profession” since 2011 and they wanted it addressed within the coming weeks, not months. “I don’t want this going into another school year,” he said.

Asked if he thought May was a credible timeframe within which a resolution could be reached, Mr Bruton said “Obviously it will be very difficult I think”, but that progress had been made in relation addressing two-tier pay scales across the public sector. However, no budgetary provision had been made to address the concerns of 270 grades.

Notwithstanding the challenges, Mr Bruton said he recognised the strength of feeling among teachers in relation to equal pay.

Mr Curtain said post-2010 teachers had endured losses of income amounting to €6,000 to €7,000 per annum compared to those who entered the profession one or two years before them.

He told the minister they knew there was “no magic pill” but that pay equality was “the most important first step in addressing teacher shortages”.

He said ASTI’s research had show recently qualified teachers were conflicted “by their strong commitment to thier students and their schools and the frustration they feel about their inferior terms and conditionss and insecure employment”.

He called on the minister to “make the right first move towards ensuring teaching is a sustainable career for our best gradutates” by offering equal pay for equal work.


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