More than 6,000 teachers have been employed since 2011 on reduced pay scales, an issue around which the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) is planning six more strikes up to December 7 in pursuit of equal pay for equal work, the next of them scheduled for Tuesday.
The union’s separate industrial action, of withdrawing from supervision and substitution work, was the priority in yesterday’s talks with the department, with the hope of averting more than 500 schools having to stay closed after this week’s mid-term break.
The parties will reconvene today but there was no indication either side was willing to ease its position on the disputes in any way.
ASTI wants all of its members who entered the profession in the past five years restored to the pre-2011 pay scales that apply to its longer-serving members.
The department told thethat restoring all entrants to the education and training sector since January 2011 to previous pay arrangements would cost between €65m and €70m a year.
This is not restricted to teachers, but more than 6,200 whole-time equivalents who have entered the teaching profession since then. The number of teachers involved could be closer to 7,000 as the figure is derived by combining those in full-time jobs with those who did not have full-time contracts or employed only as substitutes.
An ASTI spokesperson said the costs cited by the department are consistent with what the union had been saying, but that unequal pay was putting the country’s high-performing education service at risk.
Adding €70m to the Department of Education budget would represent an increase of around 0.75% annually on its allocation of over €9bn. However, a spokesperson said that the cost of a similar exercise across the entire public service would be substantially higher because the pay reductions affecting teachers after the beginning of 2011 were applied to all public servants.
Mr Bruton secured €458m, or 5.1% extra, for 2017 in last month’s budget but faces significant other demands for increased spending on third-level funding, reducing primary class sizes, and special education.
The department’s recent deal with the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and Irish National Teachers’ Organisation went some way to reversing a disproportionate pay hit on new entrants to the profession, compared to other public servants employed since 2011.
As well as the 10% reduction to pay scales for all new entrants, new teachers lost qualifications and other allowances that are paid to colleagues, but they will see increases between 15% to 20% in pay in a deal which Mr Bruton says remains open to ASTI if it ceases industrial action.