CORK teachers are prepared to strike if a deal isn’t reached to ensure pay parity for newly qualified entrants to the profession by September.
Members of the Teacher’s Union of Ireland (TUI) which represents some 16,000 teachers and lecturers in post-primary, higher, and further education, have voted to ballot at their annual congress which is taking place this week in the Clayton Silversprings Hotel.
Separately, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) had a motion calling for strike action in schools from next month at their convention in Killarney today.
A second motion called for ASTI teachers to withdraw from classroom supervision duties from September was also expected to be passed.
In Cork yesterday, the issue of pay restoration was top of the agenda for the TUI, with president Joanne Irwin stressing that “the most basic principle of trade unionism is equal pay for equal work” is a core value of the TUI.
“Our members who entered their profession since 2011 have been disgracefully discriminated against by Government,” Ms Irwin said.
“The hard fact is, that teaching is becoming less and less attractive as a profession- discriminatory pay rates, a longer pay scale, a lower starting point on the scale and a career average pension.
“We have seen elsewhere that if the status of teaching as a career is diminished, the quality of an education system rapidly slides downwards.”
Mike Lyons, area rep for schools in Cork city and county, said that younger members in the region are suffering as the pay dispute carries on.
“I’m hearing anger, palpable anger,” he said.
“They are estimating that they are losing somewhere between €200,000 and €250,000 over the course of a lifetime career.
“I’m hearing that they can’t find a place to live.”
“When you’re trying to save a deposit, when you’re trying to buy a house, it’s really difficult to make ends meet when you’re a public servant.”
Mr Lyons believes that funding could be found to address the pay issue but accuses the government of failing to do so.
“They have absolutely no problem spending millions on consultants for Irish Water which is a flop, so when they say that they have no money it’s not a credible claim.
“They are willing to waste it in other areas but to find a small amount of money to plug a hole to provide a public bus service or to educate children, there is no money.
“It’s just not credible. They have money, they just choose to spend it in other ways.”
MInister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, who also addressed congress yesterday, said that he was “not nervous” about the prospect of teachers taking to the picket line, but would not confirm that he has any plans to bring newly qualified teachers on the same pay scale as pre-2011 graduates.
“Any disruption to a parent or a pupil is something that I do not seek and do not want but I have to manage the resources available to me in a responsible way,” he said.
“I cannot pretend that I can turn my back on demands that are on money coming from new children entering the system, children with special needs, disadvantaged children, demands of new curricula we have to put in place.”