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Teaching unions threaten industrial action over pay

Members the INTO protest for equal pay for newly qualified teachers in 2016

YOUNG teachers are emigrating in their thousands to take jobs where they are appreciated, a union leader has claimed.

The Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) began its annual congress in Killarney yesterday, where the issue of pay inequality was debated.

About 850 delegates representing 35,000 primary teachers in the Republic and 7,000 in Northern Ireland are attending.

Demands for pay equalisation between young and old teachers are also likely to dominate the conferences this week of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland and the Teachers' Union of Ireland.

All three main unions in the Republic are scheduled to introduce common proposals, calling for a campaign of industrial action, should the issue continue to be unresolved.

The INTO said it had "created deep resentment in Irish schools for the past seven years".

A review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has explored the matter of pay for new entrants across the public sector. It estimated the cost of addressing it at €200 million and €83m for education alone.

The INTO said teachers were being affected disproportionately. Newer entrants to teaching are on a 27 year scale compared to a 24 year scale for older staff.

"There must a pathway to end pay inequality," said INTO president John Boyle.

"It takes 27 years to reach the top of the teachers' salary scale, the longest in the public service. Tackling pay inequality will need faster progression for teachers already recruited on lower salaries and a shortening of the scale."

Over a career in teaching, the INTO said, a 2012 entrant remained €100,000 (4 per cent) behind a 2010 entrant.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Mr Boyle said teachers' patience was running very thin. He added that young teachers were "emigrating in their thousands and taking up jobs abroad where they are appreciated".

"Certainly at the beginning of the next school year, if we don't have pay equality negotiated by then, I believe that the members of the three unions will work together," he told RTÉ radio.

"We will be shutting down schools and withdrawing labour."

The INTO in the north, meanwhile, said it was continuing to negotiate with management and the Department of Education to resolve a long running industrial relations dispute.

These negotiations, the union said, were at an early stage and were focused on pay and workload.

"The INTO northern committee, is determined to bring about a resolution that will see teachers' concerns on pay and workload addressed in a manner acceptable to INTO members," the union said.

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