Pay inequality

There is no one in INTO that agrees with pay inequality. The creation of a two tier pay system in our profession has been the most significant wrong imposed on us and a wrong that won’t be righted until each and every effected member has recouped their career earning difference comparative to their 2010 counterparts.

The current new entrant pay deal does not do that. While it gives pay equality to 2017 and 2018 graduates and all graduates going forward, it is most cruel to those who have suffered longest and hardest. It also causes anomalies with regard to certain teachers with shorter service jumping over those with longer service and does not address all post graduates inequalities.

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The deal has been negotiated within the Public Services Stability Agreement 2018 – 2020 which INTO members rejected because it did not provide pay equality but was accepted by an overall majority vote by the public sector unions. While this agreement gave us a 1% pay restoration in Oct 2018 and will give us a further 1.75% in September 2019 and 2% in October 2020 along with a 5% restoration on allowances our ultimate aim was to negotiate full pay equality within the timeframe of this agreement.

There are always 2 parties in negotiations – those who have the money (DPER) and those who want it, us. While we achieved a lot in this deal and our negotiators believe that the best deal was got, we did not fully achieve our aim.

We lobbied government members and members of the opposition parties -many stood with us but in the end they did not deliver for us and this needs to be called out!

So what do we do? We have two choices – take the money and the benefits of PSSA and try again or reject what’s on the table, leave PSSA, endure an increment freeze and mount a campaign of industrial action to get full pay equality in addition to all the benefits of PSSA. For some it’s an easy no or an easy yes. For others it’s a struggle – a struggle between pragmatism and principle.

History has told us that politically unions rarely get 100% of what they ask of governments, particularly governments of the right who don’t necessarily fully buy in to the concept of high quality, well remunerated and resourced public services. But history has also told us that in the end, little by little, deal by deal, we/unions do achieve our aims though not in the ideal timeframe – a positive.

However, morally, this deal hurts because it allows a wrong to continue, a wrong that leaves some of our members not just financially unequal but frustrated and let down. The three teacher unions have gone into this together and that is a major strength. As a listener and experienced facilitator, I would use that strength to work together, harness our collective energies and resolve this wrong.  I would also challenge those who politically have reneged on their public commitment to pay equality.

I would be innovative in proposals to resolve the inequalities in a stand alone teachers’ negotiation. I’m of the view that full restoration of past and future losses cannot be achieved by further tinkering of the salary scales as there are too many anomalies. I would suggest a restoration allowance whereby each individual’s career earnings loss would be calculated and an individual fortnightly restoration allowance awarded that would guarantee full and equal restoration.

What is important is that we all try to resolve our struggle and use our vote – all votes are not only counted but respected.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, the matter will not be left to one side. Where there is a will, there is a way. I have that will!

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