TEACHERS are warning of strike action in the autumn over the issue of pay inequality.
All three teacher unions have warned that they will ballot members if the Government does not move to address pay inequality in the coming weeks.
Since 2011, new entrants to second-level teaching are placed on inferior pay scales.
They earn reduced pay throughout their teaching careers, resulting in a lifetime earning of more than €100,000 less than their colleagues who entered the profession before 2011.
At the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) convention in Cork yesterday, the strike action warning was issued ahead of planned talks between the unions and government scheduled for April 27.
Richard Terry of ASTI’s Fermoy branch, a history and maths teacher at St Colman’s College, Fermoy, said the issue has hung over the union for 7 years.
“I think that teachers would be happy to see that progress is being made on this and that there are talks and discussions to resolve this issue,” he said.
“It’s an element of tension in the teaching community that will hopefully be resolved soon," he added.
More than 350 primary schools in Cork, along with 84 secondary schools would be impacted by any industrial action.
Pay inequality, costly further education and a lack of teacher engagement are among the main issues being discussed at the ASTI Convention in Cork this week.
The three unions - ASTI, TUI and INTO - represent 70,000 teachers between them and are a “powerful force” according to ASTI President Ger Curtin.
After ASTI members voted unanimously to ballot its members on any outcome of talks, Mr Curtin announced to rapturous applause, that fellow teachers' union, TUI, had also passed the motion.
“It keeps the industrial action in the background but it’s certainly something we can engage with,” said Mr Terry.
“The fact that all three unions are on the same page, I would say there’s a good chance of industrial action,” he added.
However, Mr Terry explained that this does not necessarily mean schools will close.
“Industrial action doesn’t have to see a closure of schools because I think that it would be very hard to convince teachers to close, particularly at this time of year,” he said.
“There are other options available to us, particularly when you take into account the participation of the three unions.
“There could be a restriction in the involvement of extracurricular activities or a restriction of Croke park hours so there’s a lot of options available other than all-out strike,” he added.
Minister for Education and Skills, TD Richard Bruton, speaking at the convention said he was delighted to speak at the event, despite receiving some heckling from the teachers present.
“We have made significant progress in terms of pay restoration already,” he added.
“Of the €550 million that I’m making available to education this year, €236 million, nearly half of that, has gone to pay restoration.
“There has been a commitment to deal with this,” said Minister Bruton.
The Minister added he is confident an agreement can be reached to avoid industrial action.