Teacher unions band together to threaten major strike action over pay

The Education Minister was heckled during a speech to teachers this afternoon

Teacher unions band together to threaten major strike action over pay

ASTI teachers vote this afternoon, 03-04-2018. Image: Juliette Gash/Newstalk

The Minister for Education has said it will be difficult to meet the early May deadline laid down by teachers to come up with concrete proposals on the restoration of pay.

70,000 teachers could go on strike this September if significant progress is not made on the issue by next month.

This afternoon 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.

Over 20,000 teachers hired after 2011 are currently on a lower pay-scale than their colleagues hired before the cut-off.

The two-tier pay scale was introduced as an emergency measure following the financial crash.

Heckling

Minister Richard Bruton addressed the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) conference this afternoon.

He confirmed that talks would begin on April 27th - however he was heckled throughout his speech.

After constant calls to address the issue of pay, he got this response when he finally touched on the matter:

Joint action

The joint motion agreed by all three unions calls for talks with the Government to start this month and to conclude by early May - with a concrete timeline for the restoration of pay for lower paid teachers.

The unions, which are all holding their annual conferences this week will ballot their members for coordinated strike action if the issue is not resolved.

However Minister Bruton has warned that it will be difficult for the Government to meet the deadline.

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.

Complicated discussion

Minister Bruton said the talks will between the Government and unions representing all public servants "not just the teacher element."

"There are 270 grades involved in this - not just the teaching grade," he said.

"So it is a significant discussion and I am not in a position to predict the timing or the potential to meet that deadline."

Siobhan Peters seconded the ASTI motion calling for significant progress by next month:

“I myself am five increments behind a 2010 graduate with the same experience and this is the best case scenario for 2011 graduates,” she said.

“I am sure there are many more lower-paid teachers who are further behind on the incremental scale as a result of part-time hours and casual contracts.

“I think it is fair to say that no-one expected instantaneous results or expected lower-paid teacher to gain pay-parity overnight.” 

Unions have long warned that that the cuts have led to recruitment and retention difficulties in key sectors – particularly in education and nursing.

Additional reporting Michael Staines ...