September 23, 2022

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Schools are facing an “alarming” struggle to hire teachers before the new term because of the cost-of-living crisis, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) is warning.

The union has blamed the difficulties in retaining and recruiting staff on delays by the Government in reinstating a key allowance for teachers agreed earlier this year.

TUI president Liz Farrell said without the immediate return of the postgraduate master’s in education (PME) allowance, formerly the HDip allowance, many teachers simply could not afford to house themselves or travel to school.

“Currently, as the new academic year is upon us, schools are experiencing alarming difficulties hiring teachers across a wide range of subject areas,” she said.

“This is largely driven by pay discrimination, which sees teachers paid at different rates for carrying out the same work.

“The cost-of-living crisis, particularly in relation to accommodation and transport, is worsening what was already a dire situation, particularly in larger urban areas.”

Earlier this year, it was agreed to reinstate the PME allowance — worth about €1,341 a year — for teachers recruited since 2012. It was abolished 10 years ago under austerity measures.

‘Pay discrimination’

As part of the deal, secondary schoolteachers agreed to sacrifice a 1 per cent pay rise, owed to them in February, under the current public sector pay deal, Building Momentum.

But, the TUI says, more than six months later the Department of Education has yet to authorise the payment.

It is urging the Government to “immediately confirm” the reinstatement of the allowance, seen as key to addressing the fallout from pay disparity in the profession.

“A survey of over 1,200 of our members earlier this year showed that that while just 30 per cent of those employed after 2011 believe at the moment that they will still be in the profession in 10 years’ time, that percentage changes to 75 per cent should pay discrimination be completely resolved,” said Ms Farrell.

“So clearly, this scandal must be urgently addressed. “The delay of this payment is of great frustration to the TUI, as it has been the long-standing position of the union that all second-level members would forgo a 1 per cent pay increase payable on February 1st to facilitate its reintroduction for those members affected.

“Yet six months on, we await what should surely be a straightforward payment.”

Ms Farrell said the allowance was not costing the Government anything — because of its prioritisation over a pay rise — yet it “continues to rest in exchequer accounts”.

“Once again, ahead of the school year, it is important to highlight that after qualifying, most second-level teachers struggle financially for several years on contracts of low hours,” she added.

“With the current cost-of-living crisis, this is unsustainable. Teachers must be provided with secure jobs of full hours and the remaining elements of pay discrimination must be resolved as a matter of urgency.”

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