Teachers' Conferences: Strike threat as action urged to restore pay

Primary teachers seeking pay restoration should go on strike to secure a rise in their wages, according to a motion yesterday at the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) annual congress.

Teachers' Conferences: Strike threat as action urged to restore pay

The proposal directed the union’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) to enter immediate discussions with other public service unions and use any means necessary, including industrial action, to secure pay restorations on the expiration of the Haddington Road Agreement.

The proposer, Noel Lohan from the Ballinasloe branch, cited a “huge injustice” to teachers, particularly those who qualified since 2011.

“Their already modest starting salary has been reduced by 10%, allowances have been withdrawn, pension contributions will far exceed what they can expect to get in return and there are no prospects of promotion,” he said.

Seconding, Bríd Finnegan, a principal from the INTO’s Ennis branch, said employment rates are up, residential property prices are up, new vehicle registrations are up, as are average earnings.

“It seems the only thing not going up is my salary,” she said, despite taking on a longer working week and extra duties.

“For the honour and glory of carrying out all the extra work I got a 20% cut in my take-home pay and had a further 4.9% withheld.”

Pat Crowe, of the CEC, said as it was generally accepted the crisis was over, emergency measures implemented during that period need to be undone.

“The Government can’t have it both ways, seeking to take electoral credit for turning the economy around and simultaneously telling public servants that actually things aren’t so good that their pay can’t be restored,” he said.

Eilis Treacy, of the Ballinasloe branch, said that a public service benchmarking body report in 2008 recommended an increase in allowances paid to primary school principals and deputies — increases that were never paid.

Since the report, principals have even more responsibilities, such as new child protection guidelines, a literacy and numeracy strategy, new reporting of children’s absences, an anti-bullying strategy, the filing of tax returns, auditing energy use and school building schemes.

As a principal, Ms Treacy said she had to do this in addition to teaching two classes, leading the school in teaching and learning, dealing with issues in class and in school, such as bullying, behavioural issues, complaints, health and safety, accidents and co-ordinating special education applications and teaching.

“If a 2008 report recommended an increase in allowances to principals seven years ago, what would a report on a primary principals’ workload in 2015 recommend?

“At the very least the 2008 recommendations should be awarded,” she said.

Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan touched on the issue of pay restoration, calling it “the biggest issue” for the INTO this year.

She told the conference: “Capitation rates, middle- management posts, book rental schemes, investment in ICT and, of course teacher salaries, are all worthy of greater funding.

“Brendan Howlin has made it clear that discussions will take place with public service unions in the coming weeks. These talks will focus in the first place on the gradual unwinding of the emergency measures implemented under the FEMPI Acts.”

While Ms O’Sullivan said she has “no doubt” that the next agreement will see substantial gains for the INTO’s members, other areas must be given immediate priority.

“We will need to be realistic about how much can be delivered immediately. In just one year, we can never hope to deliver improvements to all of the areas in education, including public pay, that need additional investment.

“Over the coming months, I want to work with all education partners to devise a coherent strategy for investment in education, because we must have priorities and we must focus first on the areas that will best deliver for children.”

Another motion called for increased funding for primary schools to bring them in line with international funding standards.

Proposed by Cork woman Emma Dineen, the vice- president of the INTO, the motion suggests more funding would help tackle overcrowding in schools and help combat negative effects felt by disadvantaged children.

In recent years, funding for schools has been cut by 15%.

A primary school now gets less than €1 a day, per child, to meet running costs, while secondary schools get almost double that.

Noel Ward, deputy general secretary of the INTO, said it was “intolerable” to see the lowest level of funding going towards the youngest children.

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