The new president of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland has said the government must commit to equal pay for post-2010 entrants to the profession in order to meet its goal of recruiting 1,080 additional second-level teachers.
The government's plan to reopen schools in the wake of Covid-19 includes the appointment of the extra teachers, in order to assist schools with social distancing measures.
"Ireland has experienced a serious shortage of second-level teachers in recent years. The main reasons for this are the high levels of precarious teaching contracts and pay inequality for those who began their careers after 2010," said Ann Piggott. "This is why schools are in trouble now, and they are worried they won't get the teachers.
"Over the last ten years, working conditions for newly qualified teachers have been so bad, with the difference in pay, and also when some teachers start working, they are given a five to six hours per week [contract].
"There must be an emphasis on offering secure teaching contracts with full-time hours."
She also said that of the 1,080 new teachers, 120 will be guidance teachers.
The ASTI president also said it was a "disappointment" for many teachers when they saw the government's plan did not make the wearing of face masks mandatory in school.
"The union has contacted the Minister to try and get the health guidelines looked at again. The plan that was released was based on guidance issued in June. A lot has happened since then.
"Even now, you can't go into a shop without wearing a face mask. But in a class with 30 students, the teacher cannot make students wear one?"
However, Ms Piggott believes a lot of students will wear masks without being asked because they will be worried about the spread of Covid-19.
In a statement, the Department of Education said: "The starting salary for a new entrant teacher in 2012 was €30,702. As a result of the programme of pay restoration, the starting salary of a teacher is now €36,953 and from October 1, 2020 onwards will be €37,692.
"On September 24, 2018, an agreement was reached between the Government and the public services committee of ICTU in respect of new entrant pay. This agreement is benefitting 16,000 teachers and nearly 5,000 SNAs within the education sector. The deal provides for a series of incremental raises for new entrants."
It said Education Minister Norma Foley is fully aware that the teacher unions have outstanding issues of concern following the September 2018 agreement.
"These outstanding matters will be given full consideration. This will happen in the context of the next round of pay talks. The positions of each of the parties on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution.
With regards to reopening, the department said: "At post primary level additional funding is being provided for the employment of additional teachers in schools and schools will recruit teachers suitable to their own sector and the subject for which they are required.