The Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said the pay inequality issue — which has seen teachers and lecturers who started work in 2011 being paid less than their colleagues for the same work — has triggered a collapse in applications to post-primary teacher training courses and devastated morale in staffrooms across the country.
“There has been a 62% collapse in applications for post-primary teacher training courses since 2011, while a TUI survey in 2017 showed that 29% of new or recent entrants to the profession did not see themselves in the job in 10 years,” the union said last night.
“In addition, there has been a five-fold rise in the emigration rate of second level teaching graduates.
“Pay discrimination has completely undermined the profession and has had a devastating impact on morale in staff rooms.
“Unsurprisingly, it has also led to a crisis in the recruitment and retention of teachers, which inevitably impairs the quality of service to students in terms of subject choice and consistency of provision.”
The comments followed a day of protests involving thousands of TUI members across the country.
They timed the lunchtime protests outside secondary schools, colleges and ITs to ensure services to students were not affected.
The chairman of the TUI’s Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) branch, Shane O’Rourke, said that TUI members, whether affected by the pay issue or not, were completely united in demanding an end to the pay discrimination as a matter of urgency
“The reputation and the high quality of the country’s education system is at stake here, and short-term, short-sighted, ‘sticking plaster’ fixes will not work,” he said.
“The only guaranteed way of ensuring the retention of teachers and the recruitment of those needed for the future is to repair the integrity of teaching by restoring pay equality.”
The introduction of emergency FEMPI legislation in 2011 slashed the starting salary for a newly-qualified second-level teacher by some €6,000 to €36,000.
It means that teachers and lecturers who entered the profession since are being paid less than their colleagues for the same work.
Last week, Education Minister Richard Bruton expressed concerns about the rising number of teachers — just over 2,200 full-time teachers — who are on career breaks, which he claimed was exacerbating the teacher shortage problem.
However, TUI general secretary, John MacGabhann, described this as a “complete distraction” and said resolving the pay discrimination issue was key to addressing the teacher shortage crisis, which he said could be tracked directly to the 2011 FEMPI cuts.
A year before the cuts, he said, there were some 2,800 applications for what was then the HDip. Applications for the new master’s course just about reached 1,000 in 2016.
The union said recruitment difficulties are particularly evident across several subjects including maths, science, modern languages, Irish and home economics, and it warned that the list of affected subject areas will lengthen if the situation is not addressed.