Teachers on wrong rates repaid €4m

More than 1,600 teachers have been repaid a total of almost €4m after being paid at the wrong rate for the last school year.

Each of the teachers was paid arrears of up to €8,500 following problems calculating the correct pay for new entrants to the profession in 2012.

Following a number of changes last year to salaries and allowances for newly qualified teachers, the Department of Education took until last month to calculate their salary rates and how much they were consequently owed in arrears.

Many had been left short by as much as €50 a day for substitution work.

The payments were made in mid-June but the figures have only now been revealed, following questions from the Irish Examiner to Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s department.

Just under €2.68m in arrears was paid to 839 primary teachers who were paid for teaching for the first time in 2012, or an average of just under €3,200 each. One primary teacher had been owed €8,573.80.

Among the 814 second-level teachers that were owed arrears, the highest amount outstanding was €5,799.65. With a total of €1.24m transferred to them in their fortnightly pay on Jun 13, the average amount received was just over €1,500.

However, further payments could be made as new cases are notified to the department by teachers who were appointed for the first time last year.

Teachers’ unions have called for the shortfalls to be addressed since last autumn, particularly after Mr Quinn assured the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation and some of those affected at a meeting in January that the matter should be sorted out within two months.

However, the department defended its handling of the pay changes and the time it took to pay arrears.

“The changes to systems for the 2012 cohort of staff were complex and could not be implemented until agreement on various issues was obtained,” a spokesperson said. “The payroll systems normally are updated immediately on changes to salary scales, budget changes, tax changes, and it is likely that this will continue to be the position for the future.”

In addition, 900 second- level teachers and 705 primary teachers have been paid arrears on allowances suspended 18 months ago.

The withdrawal of the payments was ordered by Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin, pending the outcome of a review of all public service allowances.

The department previously continued to pay old rates after the introduction of salary cuts until it had established who should be affected, but was criticised by the Comptroller and Auditor General for taking more than six months to identify new teachers whose pay was to be cut from Jan 2011.

The Irish Examiner reported that over €800,000 of the €1.75m overpaid has still to be deducted from around 2,600 teachers. The department began recouping overpayments last year, at a rate of €40 a month.

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