The Government has been accused by teachers’ leaders of ‘fake news’ over suggestions that unions did not prioritise pay equality for newer entrants to the profession in last year’s pay talks.
After Education Minister Richard Bruton backtracked this week on a previous suggestion that unions did not prioritise restoring equal pay for newer entrants, a government figure told the Irish Examiner that unions did not take their chance to make the matter a priority.
In Killarney this week, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) general secretary Sheila Nunan made clear to Mr Bruton that lower pay scales for new teachers were imposed at the end of 2010 on the profession and not, as he previously stated, agreed to by them.
“We didn’t recommend it then. We didn’t vote for it. We opposed it, and we still oppose it,” she said.
She also criticised the minister for telling the Oireachtas Education Committee a week earlier that trade unions had not prioritised the pay of new entrants when the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) was negotiated last year.
Ms Nunan told him at the INTO congress on Tuesday that this was ‘fake news’ and that the three main teacher unions rejected the deal because it did not do enough on pay equality.
Mr Bruton told reporters “the teaching unions absolutely clearly prioritised equal pay”.
But, he said, the agreement was negotiated for the entire public sector and a process to about new entrants’ pay would begin on April 27.
“The outcome wasn’t exactly what the teacher unions wanted but it nonetheless opens a roadmap... to continue to explore those issues,” he said.
After the INTO, Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and Teachers’ Union of Ireland went on to pass identical motions that could prompt votes for strikes or other action at 4,000 schools, the Government is downplaying the likelihood of fully restoring equal pay in the lifetime of the PSSA up to 2020.
This paper reported yesterday that a senior government figure said public sector unions had the chance to make new entrants pay a core demand last year but did not do so.
Rejecting this, INTO deputy general secretary Noel Ward said the section in the PSSA document setting up a process to address new entrant pay issues and implement the outcome of discussions was a priority of teacher unions in particular.
He said that the Government tried to restrict talks to unwinding separate pay and pension cuts imposed under financial emergencies law.
“Allegations that unions did not prioritise pay equality in last year’s talks should be filed away under “fake news”,” he said.
But he welcomed comments from Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath, a former INTO member, that equal pay is a red-line issue for him in the next budget.
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