The Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) warned that, due to more secure employment options in industry, it will become considerably more difficult for schools to attract teachers in an increasing number of subject areas unless salaries are equalised.
The union is calling for salary equalisation over as short a timeframe as possible. It pointed out that those who entered the profession from February 2012 have been placed on a severely-reduced starting salary which sees them generally earn over 21% less than those appointed prior to 2011.
Speaking before the TUI annual conference which starts in Killarney today, its president Gerry Quinn said it is becoming increasingly clear that schools all over the country are struggling to attract new teachers in certain subject areas.
“Graduates who had intended to undertake a masters in teaching and, increasingly, qualified teachers across a range of subjects, are routinely finding better-paid and more secure employment in industry. The problem is particularly pronounced in subjects such as home economics, modern languages, the science subjects, and Irish,” he said.
Mr Quinn said that, with around 3,500 more teachers needed to be hired over the next decade, this situation is likely to spread to all subjects unless something is done to make the profession more attractive.
“This is a damaging legacy of discriminatory, reduced pay rates for new teachers, and a rampant casualisation of the profession. While the salary scales of all new entrants to the public service were targeted, reductions in teachers’ pay were far greater than what applied to most public servants. As if this wasn’t bad enough, for several years now second-level teachers have been applying for fractions of jobs with no guarantee of being retained from year to year,” he said.
The TUI president said these teachers are now facing income poverty and often struggle to pay rent.
“Some 30% or more of our second-level teachers are employed on a temporary, part-time basis, and that this proportion grows to 50% for those under 35. It is little surprise that graduates who now qualify in certain disciplines/subjects are reluctant to undertake the required additional two-year postgraduate masters in education when they can earn considerably more in industry, start work two years earlier, and enjoy full hours, better job security, and promotional prospects from the start of their career,” said Mr Quinn.
Last week, the TUI called for a 1% levy on corporate profits in order to generate additional funding for a resource-starved higher-education sector. It said the levy would allow for the employment of thousands of academic staff and could also be used to remove the €3,000 student registration fee.
TUI members in the third-level sector took a day’s strike action last month due to alleged underfunding, understaffing, the employment status of many staff, and the detrimental effect on the service to students.