Teacher pay cuts ‘wipe outbenchmarking benefits’

THE latest public service pay cuts taking effect this week will see the benefits of benchmarking for teachers having been wiped out over the past year.

Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) incoming general secretary Sheila Nunan said the 17% drop in average take-home pay for its 35,000 members in the last year was far higher than cuts for private sector workers.

The cuts announced in last month’s budget range from 5% upwards across the public service, bringing the cumulative effect for a principal teacher at the top of the salary scale to a 19% drop.

“By comparison, the salary of a work in the private sector, which is unaffected by the pension levy and the public sector pay cut, will have fallen by 4%,” Ms Nunan said.

More than 300,000 public service workers have been hit, like all workers, by income levies (1% from January 2009 and 2% since last May) and the doubled health levy (4% since May 2009). They have been deducted an average 7.5% under the public service pension levy introduced last March and face pay cuts of at least 5% since January 1.

The INTO said, as well as wiping out the 13% benchmarking increase awarded to teachers in 2002, added in instalments up to 2005, more than 6,000 primary principals and their deputies were suffering an additional blow.

The second public service benchmarking body report two years ago recommended increases to allowances paid to primary school principals and deputies which would cost more than €13 million a year.

But the Government never sanctioned the rises as the economy began deteriorating when the first tranches were due to be paid.

“The failure to pay this award brings the extent of cutbacks suffered by these teachers to more than 20%,” Ms Nunan said.

While teacher salaries rose by 56% between 2001 and last year when benchmarking and social partnership rises are combined, Ms Nunan said the Government was taking back in one year more than benchmarking ever delivered to primary teachers.

“Benchmarking has not been a one-way street. In return for it, a totally new curriculum has been introduced with new subjects and new ways of teaching, new forms of public accountability, technology in classrooms, children with special needs integrated and newcomer children accommodated,” she said.

“This was delivered despite substandard buildings, larger classes, and fewer resources than almost any other EU country,” Ms Nunan said.

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