In an almost unprecedented move, leaders of three teacher unions have put forward the same urgent motion asking delegates at their respective conferences to approve ballots on industrial action on the issue.
It will replace different motions on the topic at each conference, providing an opportunity to fight a co-ordinated campaign and possibly hold simultaneous strikes.
The motion will be put to Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) and Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) delegates in Killarney and Cork, respectively, this afternoon. It is likely to also be added to the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) agenda, subject to delegates agreeing to do so when their conference opens before lunch.
If approved, all three unions would require the Government to enter and conclude talks by early May or face the prospect of ballots being organised.
The TUI already has a mandate from members for industrial action since they rejected the Public Service Stability Agreement last autumn, as did the other two teacher unions.
The motion also demands that talks “have the capacity to achieve a resolution of all aspects of pay inequality”, putting more immediate pressure on Education Minister Richard Bruton and his Cabinet colleagues on the terms of any negotiations.
The unions want a clear commitment on restoring equal pay to those who began teaching since 2011, some of whom are set to lose €100,000 over their careers compared to those who started teaching earlier.
The Government has been unwilling to commit to any timeline on a return to equal pay scales for all teachers.
Last week, Mr Bruton and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the teacher unions’ demands would be considered in a wider series of talks with all public service unions.
The equal pay issue will dominate debate at all three conferences this week, and will be the subject of most pressure on Mr Bruton when INTO and ASTI leaders respond to his speeches today, and at the TUI congress in Wexford tomorrow.