The threat of industrial action from September and continuing through to late 2020 emerged at teacher conferences recently.
The projected loss of at least a month’s wages is based on sanctions facing any public servant whose union takes action that repudiates last year’s Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA).
The three main teacher unions rejected the PSSA last year, but are receiving its pay benefits, due to the agreement being accepted by the wider public service union movement.
Teacher union leaders recommended that their combined 70,000 members reject the 2018-2020 deal because there was no provision for teachers who joined the profession from 2011 being offered the same pay scales as longer-serving colleagues.
The difference in career earnings between those who started teaching before and after 2011 could be €100,000 in a working life, if current scales are maintained.
At Easter, the unions’ conferences heard from delegates who were already down €30,000, compared to those who began teaching a year or two before them.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI), Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO), and Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) conferences passed identical motions, threatening industrial action up to strike level, if the equal pay issue was not resolved by early May.
Education Minister Richard Bruton warned of consequences, including financial penalties, for any such action, but would not speculate further. However, his department outlined to thethe range of measures set out in the law underpinning the PSSA.
They include delays of nine months on pay increases promised under the deal. The next rise due is a 1% hike from October 1, but anyone whose union is on industrial action would not get the increase until July 2019.
Further increases, of 1.75% and 2%, due in September, 2019 and October, 2020, respectively, would each be withheld for nine months.
Furthermore, for public servants not covered by the PSSA, if their union were to take industrial action, they would forego incremental moves up the salary scale, some of which kick in annually, depending on the length of service.
The cumulative loss over two years could be €4,000 for a teacher who just evaded the lower pay scales by joining the profession around 2010.
That is the equivalent of a month’s pay, based on a current basic salary of €47,000 for someone on the 10th point of the scale, after starting on the second or third point, depending on if they teach at primary or second level.
For a teacher 20 years into their career, lost earnings could be €6,500 — nearly six weeks’ pay — if action begins soon after schools return and if it continued through to late 2020.
Talks about new entrants’ pay across the public service are set to begin this week.
The TUI already has a mandate from its 17,000 members to direct industrial action, up to strikes, on pay.
The other two unions were directed by their conference delegates to ballot their combined, 50,000-plus members for industrial action if matters were not resolved satisfactorily by the end of May.