A vote for industrial action in schools could leave more than 36,000 primary teachers thousands of euro out of pocket in pursuit of equal pay for equal work.
The executive of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation will not meet until next week to consider the ballot on action which it is to issue shortly to members.
It follows an announcement on Tuesday night that members who took part in a ballot on the latest proposals on pay, of teachers who began in the job since 2010, had voted 53%-47% to reject the deal.
The result is to trigger the forthcoming ballot on industrial action, likely to be issued later this month, which could see primary school teachers decide on the possibility of strikes. But any industrial action would see them lose out on pay increases under the most recent public service pay deal.
Education Minister Joe McHugh underlined yesterday that there could be no more negotiations on the proposals on pay of so-called new entrants which emerged in September from months of talks between the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and public service unions.
That process was a knock-on from the 2017 Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) and sought to address lower pay scales for all those who joined the public service from 2011 onward.
“It’s just important to point out that there’s not individual mechanisms, this is an all-encompassing public service mechanism for all new entrants,” Mr McHugh said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland in response to questions about the possibility of further negotiation with teacher unions.
The minister said he was disappointed with the Into result but that it must be accepted that 53% of those teachers who voted feel there are inequities in the system.
“If you look at where we have come since 2011, there have been agreements and what has brought about those agreements on a step-by-step basis has been co-operation,” he said.
While the minister has said the INTO must now be given space to consider the ballot result and its implications, the terms of the PSSA say that any industrial action would lead to the benefits of the broader agreement being foregone.
The primary teachers’ union’s members have already seen the first of those benefits kick in, with a 1% increase under the PSSA a month ago.
But in the event of any prolonged industrial action, they could lose out on increases totalling nearly 4% over two years and would be precluded from moving up the salary scale. This could lead to cumulative individual losses of €3,000 to over €5,000, for example, for those with between eight and 20 years’ service.
Announcing the ballot result on Tuesday night, INTO secretary general Sheila Nunan said the proposed agreement would leave several cohorts of entrants to teaching from 2011 onward on lower pay scales than their colleagues. She said the membership sought to stand in unity with their lower-paid colleagues in demanding full pay restoration.
“Notwithstanding progress to date on pay equality, the proposed agreement by Government failed to signal an end to pay inequality for all new entrants,” she said.
“Acting in solidarity with their colleagues who are paid less for doing the same job, our membership has signalled that they will not stand for any agreement which leaves them in a similar position,” Ms Nunan said.
The INTO result was a mirror opposite of the 53%-47% decision last week of Teachers’ Union of Ireland members to accept the deal. The Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland will issue ballots for school-based voting to its members in hundreds of second-level schools next week, with a result not due until after voting closes on November 16.