Richard Bruton says there are other "legitimate demands" for attention and budget
The Minister for Education has warned that the Government has not budgeted for immediate pay restoration for all teachers.
70,000 teachers could go on strike this September if significant progress is not made on the issue by next month.
Yesterday, all three of Ireland’s main teacher unions unanimously passed an emergency motion calling for coordinated strike action if the Government doesn't come up with a timeline to restore pay.
The issue of pay restoration for new entrants has dominated the annual conferences of the three main teaching unions this week.
Over 20,000 teachers hired after 2011 are currently on a lower pay-scale than their colleagues hired before the cut-off.
On the Pat Kenny Show this morning, Minister Richard Bruton said the government will listen to teachers at the talks – but he warned that the budget is tight.
“What the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform has pointed out consistently is that in the present budgetary agreement – the €870m that is set aside for pay restoration – this specific area has not been provided for,” he said.
“So the €200m estimate that he has put on the cost of the new entrant issue hasn’t been put into present budgets.”
Over 60,000 public sector workers are on a different pay-scale to their colleagues hired before the 2011 cut-off.
Last month, a Government report warned that it will cost the taxpayer some €200m to address pay inequality across the public sector.
Minister Bruton has acknowledged that teachers have 'legitimate' pay claims – and has said that he is willing to respond to their demands for higher wages.
He warned however that teachers cannot be the only public servants to get an increase.
He said that work to assess the new entrant issue 'right across the public service' is getting under way.
"I've always recognised that there is a legitimate issue here being raised by the trade unions," he said.
"The point I've always made is that I also have to look at other legitimate claims on the money I have to spend. I have been able over the past two years to make provisions for 5,000 additional teachers."
He added: "Of the budget that I spent this year - €550m - about half of that went to pay restoration, but the balance went to improving services. That's the pressure... I have to make sure that I'm fair and equitable to various groups who have legitimate demands for attention."
The Education Minister will address the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) conference later today, after speaking at the other two unions' conferences yesterday.
Reporting from Stephen McNeice, Nicole Gernon and Michael Staines