Since January 2011, any teacher starting to teach for the first time in the Irish education system is paid based one of two new inferior salary scales. As a result, a teacher entering the profession this coming September stands to lose at least €240,000 over a forty-year teaching career!
Originally dubbed ‘new entrants’ or Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs), the affected teachers now describe themselves as Lesser Paid Teachers or LPTs to highlight the fact that many of them have now been teaching for five years and can hardly be described as ‘newly qualified’.
This unfair and unequal state of affairs derives from the notorious Croke Park and Lansdowne Road Agreements in which compliant union officials, largely members of the Labour Party, negotiated deals with government which nominally protected the pay of existing staff but included get out clauses allowing wage cuts for new entrants.
Those rotten agreements, campaigned for by IMPACT, SIPTU, INTO and PSEU.officials, also contained bans on those unions taking industrial action to defend or improve the pay of their new entrants.
And after five years, the anger of the LPTs is reaching boiling point. Under pressure from activists in the INTO, a ‘project group’ was set up to work on the issue.
Over the past school year, this group has managed to mobilise an impressive number of teachers at regional meetings around the country, with one meeting in Dublin in May leading to a very militant protest outside the Dail. But again that protest only happened because it was pushed by activists at the meeting.
And this brings us back to the central problem: the vice-like grip of the Lansdowne Road Agreement (LRA) And so while the INTO project group has managed to mobilise thousands of teachers around the country, LRA is preventing them from escalating their mobilisation and turning it into a campaign of industrial action and strikes
The position of the INTO is significant because it represents roughly as many teachers as the TUI and ASTI combined.
Luckily, ASTI has stayed out of LRA and is actively highlighting the clauses that prevent the issue of Lesser Paid Teachers from being addressed
Activists from INTO and TUI have now started working with activists in the ASTI. This came about on a recent visit to the Dail, where People Before Profit TDs invited activists from all three unions to witness questions being put to Pascal Donohue on the retention of the draconian FEMPI legislation.
There is no doubt that if the ASTI votes in September to take industrial action on the equal pay issue, activists within the INTO and the TUI will be poised to join the fight in whatever way they can.
The issue of inferior pay for teachers, as well as other public servants, is not going away and looks set to lead to serious industrial action in the autumn, led by ASTI.