MINISTER OF STATE Mary Mitchell O’Connor has said that she believes in ‘equal pay for equal work’ for teachers, after being asked about the possible top-up to her own pay package.
At the launch of a bursaries scheme to help increase the number of minorities and lone parents into third level education, the minister with special responsibility for higher education was asked about her pay package.
Mitchell O’Connor has said previously that she would like equal pay to other ‘super junior’ ministers - which would mean a €16,000 top up and a legislative change - but wouldn’t be asking for it, saying that money wasn’t a priority.
Today, outside the Department of Education, she said:
First of all, everyone who does the same job I think deserves the same pay. Now I’m not talking about myself and to be honest, we’re here talking about lone parents, students, and I don’t want the argument to be around myself.
“So I’m delighted to be at the Cabinet table, I’m delighted to be working hard – that’s what I am: a hard worker – and I’m delighted for my constituents in Dun Laoghaire that I’m at the Cabinet table.
“Money has never been a huge priority for me, obviously I’ve reared my own children, I’ve been elected, I was a school principal and I’m delighted and I’m honoured that the people of Dun Laoghaire elected me and that the Taoiseach appointed me with the special responsibility for higher education, and that’s exactly the job that I’m going to do.”
In response to this, Mitchell O’Connor was questioned on that same logic of “Everyone who does the same job deserves the same pay” in relation to teachers’ pay. The mantra “Equal pay for equal work” was often used by teachers’ unions that want to bring younger teachers’ pay up to the same level as some of their colleagues (which amounts to around €3,000 a year in the difference).
It was over this issue and others that the ASTI union announced seven days of strike action last winter. Richard Bruton said at the time that the funding wasn’t available to meet those pay demands.
When asked today whether she believed teachers who do the same work should be paid the same, Mitchell O’Connor’s initial responses were unclear but eventually, she sided with younger teachers on less pay than their more experienced colleagues. She said:
“Well first of all, I’m very cognisant of the issue around the younger teachers. What I believe is that there are many teachers in staff rooms paid differently, they go through seniority, and get more money.”
RTÉ’s education correspondent Emma O’Kelly asked again: “You said that everyone who does the same job deserves the same pay…”
Well I think they do and I’m going to stand by that comment.
“In relation to teachers too?”
“That’s my comment,” she said, nodding.
The scheme launched today by Bruton and Mitchell O’Connor will provide over €16 million in funding over three years to help over 2,000 students from minority groups and disadvantaged areas gain access to third level education.
As part of the scheme, universities will have to apply with innovative solutions on how to encourage lone parents, the Travelling community, and people of different ethnicities to attend third level education.
Figures from the HEA indicate that 26% of students in third level education are from disadvantaged backgrounds and 11% of students have a disability. The extra funding is designed to accelerate the growth of minority groups attending third level institutions.