Teacher unions issue deadline for an end to two-tier pay scales
Teachers are giving the Government a month to produce a commitment to end two-tier pay rates, or else strike ballots that could close schools in the autumn will go ahead.
As the three teacher unions gather at their annual conferences, the mood is hardening for an early deal to eliminate lower salary scales for new entrants.
The three unions, the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) and the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), are forming a united front to take on the Government on the issue.
A common, strongly-worded motion has been agreed by the union leaderships, which calls for negotiations on pay inequality to begin by the end of April and to conclude by early May.
The new motion updates earlier and separate motions decided individually by the unions ahead of the conferences, and puts them all on exactly the same footing.
By early May, the unions want an agreement that has "the capacity to achieve a resolution of all aspects of pay inequality" - that would involve a commitment by the Government to end pay inequality.
Failing that, ballots for industrial action, up to an including strike, will go ahead
Delegates at both the INTO and the ASTI conferences will debate the motion today with an expectation that it will be passed. It is also expected to be debated by the TUI at its conference today.
INTO president John Boyle said yesterday that the patience of the teacher unions was "definitely running very, very thin in relation to seven or eight years of dastardly cuts to the young teachers".
Mr Boyle confirmed that at if pay equality has not been negotiated by the start of the next school year, they would be "shutting down schools and withdrawing labour".
Lower pay scales for public servants were introduced after 2010 as a cost-cutting measure at the height of the austerity era.
More teachers have been affected than any other group, because teachers continued to be recruited right through the recession to cope with rising school enrolments. There are more than 16,000 teachers on lower salary scales, representing 27pc of all public servants on new entrant rates.
A recent report on pay equalisation across the public service, which put the cost of restoration at €200m, including €59m for teachers, laid the foundations for upcoming negotiations.
With all opposition parties supporting equality, the issue is now firmly on the political agenda. Post-austerity pay deals have restored about 75pc of the pay losses, but teachers recruited since 2011 will still be up to €100,000 worse off over a career as a result of the lower scales.
Separately, the INTO has warned that the quality of education offered to pupils suffers dramatically when there is a shortage of teachers.
Difficulties faced by primary schools in recruiting substitute teachers will have a direct impact on quality, according to Mr Boyle.