Some secondary teachers could strike on the 10% cut that has affected as many as 6,000 people who started working at primary and second level since 2011.
Along with the removal of qualifications allowances since 2012, estimates range from €100,000 to €300,000 in how much less will be earned over a 40-year career by those who started in recent years in comparison to longer-serving colleagues.
The issue has taken priority at all three teacher union conferences.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland annual convention voted overwhelmingly to order a ballot of nearly 18,000 members in September for action up to strike if equal pay for all is not restored by then.
Although a similar motion did not get to the floor in time at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland congress, its leadership has a pre-existing mandate to ballot for industrial action on the issue.
TUI general secretary John MacGabhann said the pay differential was compounded by some employers treating vulnerable newly qualified teachers as “galley slaves”.
His ASTI counterpart, Kieran Christie, said while cuts to all public service starting pay had taken effect five years ago, it was coming to the fore in teaching now as it was one of the few sectors which had been able to continually hire staff due to growing student numbers in the intervening period.
At the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation congress, where the cuts to newly qualified teachers was the focus of attention and unanimously condemned, delegates spoke of their difficulties living and trying to obtain mortgages on the reduced salaries.
In response to the issues, a spokesperson for Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said the Government had been committed to addressing public sector pay by negotiation rather than by diktat. He said the Lansdowne Road Agreement is beginning to restore public service pay reductions of recent years, with flat-rate increases to teacher salaries that are more favourable to newer entrants than percentage increases.
However, the ASTI and TUI both rejected that deal last autumn, leaving their members open to the threat of further cuts under financial emergency legislation.
The minister’s spokesperson said the Lansdowne Road Agreement has improved the salaries of teachers starting out, and as the economy continues to recover, further restoration of public service pay levels can be achieved through national pay agreements.