The Government is likely to pass this week’s proposed pay restoration measures for teachers at next month’s budget with the possibility of school strikes looming large.
Ballots on the deal will be under way by October 10 among more than 70,000 members of the three main teacher unions, despite Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s insistence that there is no further funding to 2020 to improve the reduced pay for those who joined the public service after 2010.
The benefits range from €1,360 to €3,500 for those affected by reduced salaries next year, but teacher unions say the measures do not go far enough on restoration of pay equality for ‘new entrants’
to the profession.
Their annual conferences in April mandated ballots on industrial action if any deal does not end pay inequality in the profession.
Teachers could forego salary increases scheduled under last year’s Public Service Stability Agreement if they breach its terms by taking industrial action. It would mean losses of up €6,500, for example, for those with 20 years’ service.
The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) central executive will not be recommending acceptance when its 36,000 members are asked to vote in a ballot issuing next week.
It will simply inform them of the details of the proposals presented to public service unions at the Department of Finance after several months of negotiations.
INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan said the proposals provide full upward pay equality for new entrants from 2017, and deliver significant progress for earlier new entrants.
The union said the proposals do not fully restore pay equality for the earliest group of entrants to teaching after 2011, even with a two-point salary scale jump for 2011 entrants next year over the incremental salary increase they would be scheduled to receive anyway.
The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) 180-member central executive council will have to meet first to consider a response, which is not likely to happen until Saturday week at the earliest, days before Budget 2019.
After the proposals were announced on Monday, ASTI president Breda Lynch said they do not resolve pay inequality.
She said there were also outstanding issues around qualification allowances for teachers and the starting point on teachers’ pay scales.
“It is bitterly disappointing that, seven years after the introduction of discriminatory pay scales in teaching, this unacceptable discrimination continues for thousands of teachers.”
Ahead of an executive meeting in the coming days, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) said the proposals represent further movement but will not, of itself, deliver pay equality.
“Because the most significant difference in scales will still be in the initial career stage, the TUI’s concern about the crisis of teacher recruitment and retention remains,” said the union.
TUI will most likely issue ballot papers in the days before the budget, but the outcome could depend on whether its executive decides to make any recommendation on voting, and whether it asks members to accept or reject the proposals.
Education Minister Richard Bruton said the proposals complement earlier improvements that will see teachers’ starting salaries rise to €36,318 next month, and to almost €38,000 in two years, which he described as very attractive starting salaries for graduates.
Many post-2010 teachers have said on social media that back-pay of lost earnings has not been dealt with.
At the union conferences last Easter, some teachers spoke of losing out on around €30,000 each in the last four or five years alone.