Teachers’ unions are to demand inflation-matching pay increases at their annual conferences taking place this week with ASTI president Eamon Dennehy insisting that they have not “raised the flag of industrial action with regard to wage increases".
In an interview on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Dennehy said that every worker in the country is aware that the cost of living has gone up by an enormous amount.
“Probably by six or eight per cent in just one year already. Our wages have to match that. Indeed, the wages of teachers have been depressed enough over the last 10 or 12 years. We have a two tier payment system. What will have to happen here is that there will have to be wage negotiations about that.
"An awful lot of changes are made without negotiations. I think this time all trade unions, the ASTI included, need to be recognised as the people who represent their membership and should be talked to about changes for example to their working conditions etc. So we would be looking for that.”
Mr Dennehy stressed that there is “huge disquiet” among teachers with regard to the trajectory of their profession which many in the sector feel is not seen to be as attractive as it used to be.
“There are now problems filling jobs in schools. So that status of the job and the way it is perceived as being a good job is slipping. That is only going to be disastrous for our education system.”
He refuted suggestions that the ASTI is more aggressive than other teaching unions with regard to the issue of pay.
“These are motions brought in by our membership, and we are very much a democratic organisation. And we certainly do represent our membership, and we will fight for their rights. And what we are doing now is fighting for the right of every child to have a quality education because to have education you need good teachers, and you need the profession to attract them.
"So that is what our conference is going to be all about. It is going to be about standards. The ability to attract people to our profession which is starting to slip because of unilateral decisions that are made without contacting or considering at all the views of workers in those processes.
"The ASTI has a proud tradition of defending its members.”
He added that Education Minister Norma Foley will be made aware of “key messages’ today at the ASTI conference in Cork.
“The key message to her (Norma Foley) will be that our voices need to be heard in our profession. The Minister is very welcome to our convention.
"We do want to be included in any negotiations when it comes to changing our working conditions or indeed when it comes to changing the education system. Because we are concerned about the maintenance of quality for our young people.
We are very concerned about the way things are going.”