A strike in secondary schools in Ireland has seen hundreds of establishments closed as teachers all over the country demand an end to pay discrimination.
Hundreds of second-level schools have closed today as members of the Teachers' Union of Ireland (TUI), affiliated to Education International, have gone on strike to demand an end to unequal pay. The union represents some 19,000 members in second-level schools, colleges of further and adult education, Institutes of Technology, and the Technological University of Dublin.
In October, TUI members voted by a margin of 92 per cent to eight per cent to engage in a campaign of industrial action, up to and including strike action, on this issue. In November, the union announced it would take strike action in February unless the matter was resolved.
Background: Two-tier pay scale
The background to today’s action lies in pay differentials for teachers employed after 1 February 2012. The largest discrimination occurs in the early years of a new teacher’s employment: new entrants to second level-teaching earn 14 per cent less on initial appointment and 10 per cent less over the first 10 years than they would have before the imposition of a two-tier pay system. This means that, within the first 10 years of a new entrant’s career, they earn over €50,000 less. Over a 40-year career, they earn over €110,000 less.
Discrimination has no place in our schools, according to the TUI. Paying colleagues different rates for carrying out the same work is morally wrong and has proved hugely detrimental to the morale of teachers and lecturers.
Speaking today, TUI President Seamus Lahart said: “We have exhausted every avenue open to us to bring this matter to resolution and have been left with no choice but to take strike action over the ongoing scandal of pay discrimination.”
TUI General Secretary John MacGabhann said the issue is fuelling a crisis in teacher supply and “we are bleeding a generation of talent away from teaching”. MacGabhann noted thatMinister for Education Joe McHugh had told union representatives at a conference last April that the issue would be addressed "promptly", but that he and the Government failed to do so.
Pay discrimination affects the whole education system
According to TUI, service to students has been affected, with the two-tier pay system fuelling an ever-deepening crisis of recruitment and retention of teachers in second-level schools. A survey of principals carried out by TUI last April found that, over the previous six months, 68 per cent of schools advertised positions to which no teacher applied. Forty-seven per cent of schools had unfilled teaching vacancies. In practical terms, this means that many schools are not able to offer pupils a full range of subjects and levels.