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Unequal pay issue will be resolved at ballot box, warn teachers

Update 4.05pm: Teachers have warned that the issue of unequal pay in their sector will be resolved at the ballot box if it is not sorted beforehand.

The President of the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) Seamus Lahart warned Education Minister Joe McHugh that the issue of unequal pay is not going away.

The TUI also voted to ballot members to renew their mandate for industrial action over the ongoing campaign for pay equality for all members.

An emergency motion tabled at the TUI's annual congress in Killarney sought to renew its mandate for a campaign of industrial action, up to and including strike action 'in pursuit of the just goal of pay equality'. The previous mandate was secured in 2017.

During an address to delegates, Mr McHugh said that he is aware of the pay inequality issues; that 'exploratory talks' have taken place; and that the issue of new entrant pay will be given 'full consideration'.

The Minister said that the issue is one that emerges frequently.

"It is not just here: I was in China recently and teachers there were telling me that it is a barrier to their returning," he said.

"This an issue of unfinished business."

The Minister said that the issue of hDip allowances will be discussed via a conciliation avenue. It is unrelated to the equal pay discussions, he added.

Responding to the Minister, TUI President Seamus Lahart said that the issue is 'a reality' in schools all over Ireland.

"Teachers are asked to teach children about the immorality of discrimination in our society while at the same time those same teachers are being subjected to grossly unfair discrimination themselves," he said. "TUI will not give up its campaign for pay equality until every teacher is paid equally for the work they do."

Joe McHugh

Mr Lahart warned the issue of equal pay for post-2011 entrants will not go away.

"Discrimination will be an election issue in every constituency in Ireland during the upcoming local elections and the next general election," he said, adding that teachers are in it 'for the long haul'.

"Minister, you are part of a government that continues to discriminate against one-third of the teaching staff that it employs - those who entered the profession after January 1, 2011," Mr Lahart said. "Your action plan for this year has 280 achievable targets for the year, yet there is one overdue target that you should aspire to deliver: equal pay for equal work."

Earlier:'This is not living': Housing crisis slammed at TUI conference

Students are commuting for four hours to attend universities in Dublin, while new entrant teachers living in the capital are shelling out up to 60% of their income on rent.

Teachers' Union of Ireland congress delegates were told that new teachers are struggling to pay rents in parts of the country, while students at third level are facing lengthy commutes as rents in parts of the country are unsustainable.

Members of the Dublin branch of TUI told delegates about students travelling four hours per day as they cannot afford rent in the city, with the situation slammed as "disgraceful".

Eddie Conlon said that rents are rising twice as fast as wages, with parts of Dublin now averaging more than €1,650 per month, according to the CSO.

"It is wreaking havoc with people's lives. It isn't hard to work out the solution - if there is a housing shortage, you build houses," he said.

For teachers who started after 2011, they could spend as much as 60% of their salary on rent, he added.

"This is not living, this is not how we want people to live their lives, where they are scraping and giving over half their income to have somewhere to live," Mr Conlon said.

A motion from the Dublin colleges branch of the TUI expressed "disbelief and frustration" at the government's response to the crisis. It was passed overwhelmingly.

The motions came a day after TUI General Secretary John MacGabhann slammed the government's response to the housing crisis as "a betrayal of the most craven kind".

Mr MacGabhann said the government is preoccupied with the saga surrounding the FAI rather than resolving the housing issues.

Addressing Education Minister Joe McHugh, TUI President Seamus Lahart said that members are reporting rising rents and travel costs.

"Saving for a mortgage is simply not a viable option," he said.

"Teachers in our schools have to be careful referring to work outside of school as homework. It could easily be hotel bedroom-work or temporary accommodation work."