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Bruton says he can't restore young teachers' pay as it would mean cutting children's resources

A ballot of members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) rejected the government’s new public pay deal this evening.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

FULLY RESTORING TEACHERS’ pay would mean the government would have to cut back on resources for school children, said Education Minister Richard Bruton.

The minister told reporters at the Fine Gael think-in in Clonmel that he “fully understood” the position of the trade unions: that younger teachers should receive equal pay.

However, he said young teachers were “protected” during the difficult years of the recession, when recruitment continued, but at a lower pay scale.

A ballot of members of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) rejected the government’s new public pay deal this evening.

In rejecting the pay deal this evening, TUI President Joanne Irwin said: “It is morally wrong that two colleagues are placed on significantly different pay scales although carrying out the same work.”

Last week, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) recommended that its 18,000 members should reject the new public service pay agreement.

Unions continue to state that it is unfair that younger teachers’ pay is not the same level as some of their colleagues (it amounts to around €3,000 a year in the difference).

Rejection of the pay deal – which is expected to be ratified on Monday – by two teachers unions would be a major headache for government, particularly if it results in strike action.

Bruton said he does not have the funds to fully restore teachers’ pay at the moment, as it would cost upward of €250 million across the whole public service.

“We have to balance the request and desire of teachers unions, which I fully understand, to all be on the same pay scale, with the needs that I have to put money into disadvantaged pupils, into apprenticeships, into special needs, into reducing class sizes, and I have to balance those two needs,” he said.

“I don’t have another €250 million in my vote to achieve something different. The only way that could be done would be denying children resources in their schools so I have to balance those.”

The minister also faces difficulties on the issue from within his own party.

Minister of State for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor told reporters last month that she believed teachers who do the same work should be paid the same.

“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 the minister for clarity on the issue, and O’Connor replied:

“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?” asked O’Kelly.

“That’s my comment,” said the minister, nodding.

At the time, Bruton said that the funding wasn’t available to meet those pay demands.

Read: Government to crack down on landlords who retain deposits from renters>

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