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Second level teachers have voted for industrial action over 'pay discrimination'

Schools could be affected by teachers’ strike if Government doesn’t take action on two-tier pay.

Teachers vote for industrial action
Teachers vote for industrial action
Image: Shutterstock/Chinnapong

SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS could go on strike over two-tier pay after voting overwhelmingly for industrial action.

A ballot by the Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) saw a margin of 92% to 8% in favour of industrial action, up to and including striking, in a bid to get equal pay.

The union said it is “frustrated” at the Government’s inaction and called for “real engagement” from Minister for Education Joe McHugh.

TUI President Seamus Lahart said teachers are “losing patience” over the lack of process being made to tackle pay inequality.

“Yet again this year, a new cohort of teachers has entered the profession being paid at a lesser rate than their longer-serving colleagues for carrying out the same work,” Lahart said.

“Progress has been made in this campaign, but our members have run out of patience with the Government’s failure or unwillingness to complete the process of pay equalisation.”

Lahart said teachers are “united on this issue and are willing to take action, up to and including strike action”, unless action is taken “without delay”.

Teachers hired over the last eight years are on lower pay scales due to austerity-era pay cuts.

Secondary school teachers starting their careers, who were employed after 1 January 2011, earn 14% less on their appointment compared to their colleagues hired before  cutbacks, according to the TUI.

They also earn 10% less in the first 10 years than they would have before the introduction of pay cuts.

The Government pledged last April to give “full consideration” to “outstanding issues of concern” among “certain unions” in any future pay review mechanism or in the next round of pay talks.

However the TUI said this has yet to be “translated into practical action”.

Pay discrimination is the single greatest cause of the crisis of recruitment and retention in schools across the country, according to the union.

A survey of principals in a sixth of the country’s second level schools carried out by TUI in April found that over the previous six months, 94% of schools experienced teacher recruitment difficulties, while 68% of schools advertised positions to which no teacher applied.

“Several weeks into the new academic year, there is already strong evidence that these difficulties are worsening,” the union said.

The TUI represents over 17,000 second level teachers and lecturers.

A spokesperson from the Department of Education said that Minister McHugh “notes the outcome of the ballot”.

The Minister is aware that the teacher unions have outstanding issues of concern following the September 2018 agreement. These outstanding matters will be given full consideration either by any pay review mechanism agreed by the parties to the Public Service Stability Agreement, or in the context of the next round of pay talks. It is recognised that the positions of each of the parties concerned on these matters must be given due regard in endeavouring to reach a mutually agreed resolution. 

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Michelle O'Keeffe

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